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State embargo delays student test score release

An embargo halting the release of student standardized test scores will remain in effect until all county data is returned and validated, a Department of Education spokesperson said Thursday.

Westest results, which typically are shared with county boards of education in the summer, must first be verified before their release to the public. The process has taken longer than expected this year and has been the source of much frustration for local school officials.

The department has blamed the months-long delay on new digital testing methods. This was the first year the test was administered solely online, an endeavor that also experienced widespread problems.

“The worst thing we can do is release something and it be wrong,” said Liza Cordeiro, the department’s communications director. She later added the department exercises caution when dealing with student information.

The delay, however, has irritated local school officials.

During a Kanawha County Board of Education meeting Tuesday, board President Robin Rector said the department is to blame, not the counties.

Schools boards use the data to determine which schools need intervention and inform teachers what subjects need more attention.

Cordeiro said school boards should already have their results though.

At the board’s meeting Tuesday, Kanawha County Deputy Superintendent Tom Williams said the embargo could be lifted as early as Thursday. While the moratorium continues, Rector said she would be surprised if the results aren’t issued in time for board members to discuss them at their next curriculum meeting on Dec. 1.

Last year, the test results were released in early September and revealed statewide gains in reading and math proficiency.

Kanawha County also showed improvement. More than 40 percent of county schools were given a “success” ranking, which is the highest designation in the department’s new school accountability system.

The rankings are designed to identify areas where schools may be struggling. A success label is given only when a majority of students meet academic benchmarks and the school meets attendance, graduation and achievement goals.

This is the last year Westest scores will be released by the department. Starting this spring, the state will switch to the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment tests.