While each of Marion’s schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, the county as a whole did not.

Dr. James Phares, superintendent of schools, said he believes test scores among the special education subgroup dragged last year’s total scores down.

The county board of education received the news during two days of planning sessions at Lakeview Resort and Conference Center. Phares released information labeled “private” from the West Virginia Achieves homepage. West Virginia Achieves is the state’s version of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Detailed information on each of the county’s schools has not yet been released.

According to the report of last year’s WESTEST scores, Marion County’s special education students scored low in both reading and math.

Reading scores among special education students at the elementary level averaged 49.3, 33.7 at the middle school level and 13.5 at the high schools. Math scores were equally low, with elementary special education students scoring 37.7, middle school level students scored an average of 35.8, with high school scores averaging 17.6.

This is the second year in a row the county has not made Adequate Yearly Progress, Phares said.

Since the county didn’t meet AYP for the second year in a row, staff and students will have to step up efforts to increase scores. Also, 10 percent of Title 1 funds will have to be used for academics across the board.

Phares explained the picture is bad, but not grim. The county has narrowed the achievement gap between all students and those in two other subgroups: low socio-economic status and minorities, he said.

“We’re getting it done in each area, except special education,” Phares said.

This year, administration is introducing an initiative to get the special education students “out of the resource rooms and into classes with teachers who know the content,” Phares said. The Fast ForWord program, a computer-based reading program, should also help increase scores among all students.

In other matters, the board discussed facilities plans, including adding gymnasiums to 10 elementary schools. Phares noted this is part of an effort to separate cafeterias and gymnasiums so physical education classes and assemblies won’t have to be scheduled around lunch times.

It would cost at least $1.3 million for each gymnasium, the board learned.

The board will most likely vote to alter the county’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan. The next project on the current CEFP is maintenance on the Marion County Technical Center. However, Phares and the board believe continued growth in the Watson area requires an expansion of Watson Elementary.

“I think we’re seeing the early stages of county expansion,” Phares said.

The expansion would require the addition of a few classrooms and some storage area. The board is also considering adding a cafeteria.

Before beginning the construction process, the board will have to submit a revision to the CEFP to the state department of education for approval.

Revisions are due in Charleston by Dec. 1, Phares said.

E-mail Katie Wilson at kwilson@timeswv.com.

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