Parents weigh in on WESTEST


Students at many schools are getting adjusted to a new routine this week as they focus their attention on taking the WESTEST, the West Virginia Educational Standards Test.

Soon parents and students will start hearing about an entirely new test.

Later this month a practice test version of the new West Virginia Smarter Balanced Assessment is scheduled to be unveiled.

The test should start appearing in schools on a larger scale by 2014.

The West Virginia Department of Education has released a video and in depth explanation of the assessment to help parents and students prepare for the changes ahead.

Some parents have been outspoken against the WESTEST since it was first introduced. Others have supported the testing method.

Typically testing week brings requests from school leaders to make certain students get plenty of rest and eat a good breakfast to keep them clear and focused.

The results of the test can have a big impact on a school and county's reputation.

"I think they show that they have mastered basic skills that every student should have mastered at that grade level," said parent Debbie Duespohl, who is a supporter of the testing.

But some parents and even school administrators say the WESTEST process has flaws.

"Unfortunately it can be too determining a factor when they judge whether a school is effective," said Steve Knighton, the principal at Piedmont Elementary in Charleston. "It really wreaks havoc on a weeks schedule. The other grades are having to tiptoe around the school. It really is problematic on how a school week flows."

State education officials say the assessment results provide information about a student's academic strengths, as well as areas that need improvement. Adding that the results of the tests will be used by educators to improve student learning and performance.

Parent Kelly Mullins said she looks forward to seeing how her students perform on the test and uses the results to determine if her child's school and teachers are performing well. But she said she does have concerns about how important the results have become.

"I think the teachers worry about it a little bit much. They focus on it all year getting them ready for that and then when the test is done they are like 'ok the school year is over now'."

Many schools offer rewards for students at the end of testing and have programs leading up to the test to encourage strong performance and effort.

To learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment follow the link provided.

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