State school board president doesn’t mince words about West Virginia’s poor test scores

Paul Hardesty, president of West Virginia’s state school board, needed no thesaurus to describe the state’s most recent educational assessment scores.

Paul Hardesty

“I could use big, fancy words, but I’m just going to use this one: They suck,” Hardesty said today. “I mean, they’re dismal. They’re not good. The worst in the history of the state.”

West Virginia’s results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress were well below the national average and amounted to the state’s lowest performance ever.

Test scores for reading and math were down for fourth and eighth graders across the nation in Monday’s release of the education assessment known as The Nation’s Report Card.

West Virginia’s scores weren’t great in prior years and then plummeted even more following the pandemic disruptions of the past couple of years.

“People point to the pandemic, missed classroom instruction and those things. But today, I want to focus on something different. I want to talk about solutions,” said Hardesty, a former state senator and a three-term member of the Logan County Board of Education. “It’s like a patient. We’ve got to stabilize and triage the patient and start to do something to make it better.”

Hardesty, speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” generally described a return to basics. “Let’s spend our day in the classroom teaching math, reading and writing.”

Nationally, the test was administered to 446,700 students at 10,970 schools in all states at the beginning of the calendar year. It is scored on a scale of 0 to 500.

Not all students take the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The assessment is administered to a sample of schools whose students reflect varying demographics of the state. Within each school and grade being assessed, students are chosen at random to participate.

In mathematics, West Virginia public school fourth graders had an average score of 226. That was lower than the average score of 235 for public school students across the nation. That’s also the lowest score in more than 20 years for West Virginia fourth graders.

Only New Mexico, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were considered significantly worse than West Virginia in this age group and subject.

In reading, the other big area assessed, West Virginia fourth graders scored an average 205. The national average was 216. The score was the lowest ever recorded for West Virginia public school fourth graders.

Only Alaska, New Mexico and Puerto Rico were marginally worse.

West Virginia public school eighth graders scored 260 on average in math. That was lower than the national average of 272 and the lowest average for West Virginia eighth graders in more than 20 years.

The District of Columbia and New Mexico were slightly worse, and only Puerto Rico was significantly worse.

The West Virginia eighth graders scored a 249 in reading. That was lower than the average national score of 259. And it was the lowest reading score ever recorded by West Virginia eighth graders.

New Mexico and Puerto Rico performed somewhat worse.

Brian Dayton

Brian Dayton, the vice president of policy and advocacy for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, called West Virginia’s results “disappointing.”

“The results that we got back were, just frankly, the worst that we’ve seen in West Virginia,” Dayton said on “Talkline.” “That’s just, in our view, a wakeup call that what we’ve been doing isn’t working. Everything needs to be on the table because this is the future of our state. These are our children. We want to make sure that they have a good education, that they are well-prepared for their future.

“This is critically important, and I think what we saw was a wakeup call.”

The disruptions brought on by the covid-19 pandemic affected the scores in a predictable way, said Monongalia County Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell.

“I’m not shocked at all. I think everybody anticipated that between the time period of 2019 and 2022, when the NAEP test was given, I think anybody in education expected that scores nationally and statewide would deteriorate. I don’t think that was unexpected,” Campbell said on “Talk of the Town” on WAJR Radio.

He continued, “We also understand that we’ve got a lot of work to do, and we are digging into the data that’s available to us to make plans for how to attack what it is we need to look at in both math and reading.”

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