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“Every School Day Matters!!”

The Gilmer Free Press

As kindergarten through 12th grade students return to the classrooms on Thursday, August 13, 2015, we want to welcome our students, parents, and school staff members to a great year.

There are plans being made throughout our community to add more support for our students’ success, including the need to attend school because “every school day matters!!”

Community team efforts are being set in place to encourage school attendance, parent engagement activities, Title I countywide events, team building activities and student leadership initiatives.

We want our students to know that they are important and their education is important; therefore “every school day matters!”

Welcome back to school Gilmer County!

Gilmer County Schools

G-Eye™: Leading Creek Elementary School Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

08.12.2015
CommunityGilmer CountyLinnLewis CountyEducationNewsRegionWest Virginia

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GSC Invites Community to Help Welcome Incoming Students

The Gilmer Free Press

GLENVILLE, WV – On Friday, August 14, new students will be welcomed to Glenville State College (GSC) for the 2015-2016 academic school year. Students will use Friday and the weekend to become acquainted with the school and community before classes begin on Monday, August 17.

To help the new students learn about the Glenville community—including local businesses, churches, and other groups that might interest them—GSC is hosting a Campus Picnic & Community Fair.

The event will take place on Saturday, August 15 beginning at 4:30 p.m. on the lawn near GSC’s Clark Hall. Representatives from community businesses, churches, and organizations are invited to set up displays to introduce themselves to the new students through the use of coupons, gift certificates, free samples, and information. The annual event is an opportunity to show new GSC Pioneers what the community has to offer them.

“This is a very exciting time in the lives of these students, and we are giving local residents the chance to introduce themselves and their organizations to them. We are more than excited to be a part of such a wonderful community that’s so willingly gives back to those in the area,” said GSC Director of Student Activities Jodi Walters.

Martirano to Release Standardized Test Results Today

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginia State School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano will release the results from last school year’s standardized testing in West Virginia during Wednesday afternoon’s state Board of Education meeting.

“I’ve been very clear about the fact that I want those results out early,” Martirano told MetroNews. “I’ve very transparent in my superintendency about all of our information and I want those results into the hands of our teachers and principals and parents so good instructional decisions can be made about those.”

Students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the Smarter Balanced assessment tests in English/Language Arts and Math. Some students took a separate test in Science. Wednesday will mark the earliest release of the test results, Martirano said.

“Our challenge has been the past several years that those results have not come back until as late as December and that’s not good,” Martirano, who is beginning his second school year as superintendent, said. “Quality assessment should have those results turned around so those results can be put into the hands our teachers, principals and parents so they can have conservations about kids and how to improve the delivery model.”

Students who took the tests were taught Next Generation (Common Core) Standards, which have been under fire for months. State Senate President and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole predicted last week the standards would be repealed next year by state lawmakers. Cole said the state needs to start all over and come up with new standards.

Martirano will release the test results during his report to the state BOE at around 1 PM Wednesday.

08.12.2015
EducationNewsWest Virginia

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West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

Ruling against developers could chart course for how pipelines are developed in the future

MORGANTOWN, WV — A court ruling in Monroe County is drawing attention from the entire natural gas industry.  Judge Robert Irons recently ruled in favor of a landowner in Monroe County who did not want developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to come onto their property to survey.  The ruling could become complicated case law for other pipeline developers.

Attorney Brigett Furbee wasn’t involved in the case, but said many in both the industry and opposition groups are watching the case with interest. Furbee said the laws are different in other states and in Virginia it is legal to come onto private property for survey work without permission.  That isn’t the case in West Virginia. There is a higher standard in West Virginia to gain access.

“We do have an eminent domain law that applies not just to public utilities,” she said. “But it’s based on the purpose of the access.  One of the public uses set for buy statute and followed by case law includes natural gas or oil pipeline.”

But Judge Irons ruled the developer had not demonstrated how the pipeline would be a public benefit.  The public benefit is a key consideration in eminent domain cases.

“I don’t think anyone would argue private property rights are near and dear. I don’t think that’s the point here,” said Furbee. “There’s a greater good that is served by roads and railroads and pipelines and moving gas to folks in areas where natural gas is not an option for them.”

Furbee said it’s been her experience most gas companies are very up front with their plans and often stage public meetings and have one on one communications with landowners about those plans and what they’d like to do.  Those direct communications often result in the more desired outcome of direct negotiations for access and rights payments.  She said most companies would rather avoid using eminent domain because of the added burden of involving the court.

It’s unclear what will happen in the case of the Mountain Valley Line in Monroe County, but most observers expect the ruling to be appealed.  Furbee said the Supreme Court could set a precedent on future gas line work with a ruling. She said they may also simply clarify the case law and remand the matter back to Judge Irons. A third option may to have no appeal at all and the line will be routed in another direction to bypass the property of the couple who filed the lawsuit.

“There are lots of folks who are very willing to have a pipeline come through their property,” said Furbee. “Because they’ll get paid by the company for allowing their land to be used to carry the pipeline.”


$2 MILLION TO IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SERVICES

Washington D.C. — U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) today announced a total of $2 million to improve mental health and substance abuse treatment in West Virginia. The funding is being awarded to Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center in Princeton and the Westbrook Health Services Integrated Care Program (WHSIC) in Parkersburg.

“Far too many West Virginians have been affected by mental health disorders, drug abuse and addiction, far too many families have been torn apart and far too many lives have been lost,” Senator Manchin said. “As West Virginians, we value nothing more than the well-being of our children and families, and I am so appreciative of the many different individuals and groups that are working to end the epidemic we face. This funding will help in the cause by strengthening services for our neighbors in Princeton and Parkersburg who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders.”

The individual funding is listed below:

$1,600,000 – Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center, Princeton

$400,000 – Westbrook Health Services, Parkersburg

The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Center for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).


Corps reopening Sutton Lake campground closed by high water

SUTTON, WV - A campground at Sutton Lake that was closed because of high water is reopening.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says Bakers Run Campground will reopen on Tuesday.

The West Virginia Division of Highways is repairing a road leading to the campground. The corps says parts of the repaired roadway will be rough and campers should be cautious.

A slip has reduced the road to one lane just prior to the Spruce Lick Church. The road will reopen to all traffic after this weekend.

The corps temporarily closed several campgrounds and recreation areas after recent heavy rainfall raised the lake above its normal summer pool elevation.


WV truck drivers head to national championships

CHARLESTON, WV - Professional tractor-trailer operators from West Virginia will participate in a national competition this week.

Nine drivers will head to St. Louis for the American Trucking Association’s annual National Truck Driving Championships. More than 420 drivers from every states are expected to compete in the four-day competition.

Contestants will maneuver through obstacles that simulate daily situations faced by truck drivers.

The winners will be crowned on Saturday in nine categories, along with an overall champion.

Truancy Problem in WV Schools

The Gilmer Free Press

Almost a third of public school students in West Virginia were truant in 2013-2014, according to recent West Virginia Department of Education statistics.

Wyoming County in southern West Virginia had the second-highest truancy rate, with 57 percent of students having more than five unexcused absences per semester — the state criteria for being truant.

Only McDowell County (58 percent) had slightly more truant students, according to the Department of Education truancy trends data for 2013-2014.

The state truancy average was around 31 percent, WVDE officials reported. Percentages for other southern West Virginia counties were: Fayette, 29; Greenbrier, 27; Mercer, 40; Nicholas, 24; Raleigh, 50 and Summers, 35. Numbers are rounded up or down to the full percentage point.

Different factors contribute to higher truancy rates, area attendance directors explained.

McDowell County Superintendent Nelson Spencer attributed truancy to poverty and drug abuse, according to an Associated Press report.

Fayette County schools attendance director Judy Lively said a variety of factors can lead to truancy and to lowered graduation rates in a school district.

When Lively assumed her current position several years ago, she said, she was idealistic. She had a vision of turning around the students who were truant and raising the graduation rate.

“I thought, within a couple of years, I’d have everything straightened out, and everybody would be going to school,” she said. “When I took the job and saw what all it involved … there’s so many different issues with truancy.

~~  Jessica Farrish - REGISTER-HERALD ~~

08.12.2015
EducationNewsWest Virginia

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U.S.A. News

The Gilmer Free Press

U.S. Postal Service reports $586M net loss for spring

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Postal Service on Monday reported a net loss of $586 million this spring, a big improvement for the cash-strapped agency compared to a nearly $2 billion loss during the same period last year.

Postal officials said the loss was mitigated largely because interest rates, which are associated with worker’ compensation expenses, swung in the agency’s favor. Operating expenses outside the Postal Service’s control dropped by $1.6 billion during the same period last year to $389 million this spring.

The Postal Service is an independent agency that receives no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control. The latest financial statement covers April through the end of June, a time period when the Postal Service says it typically experiences lower revenues.

Joseph Corbett, the Postal Service’s chief financial officer, said increased package revenue and productivity gains weren’t quite enough to offset inflation and a decline in mail volume, even though operating revenue of $16.5 billion was roughly the same as last spring and shipping and package revenue increased by 10.6 percent. He blamed increases in certain operating expenses, including wages, benefits and transportation.

“This underscores the need for a combination of continued sales growth, productivity gains and legislation to ensure the Postal Service can return to financial health and meet its public service obligations,“ he said in a statement.

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said the results represent an impressive “turnaround continuing in full force.“ The group cites the $1.2 billion in “controllable” net income for the first three-quarters of the year. Controllable income excludes certain factors including a requirement that the Postal Service prefund retiree health benefits.

The operating losses during the third quarter aren’t unusual, and “it doesn’t change the fact that 2015 is turning into one of the USPS’ most impressive annual performances since the Great Recession,“ he said in a statement.


Soda Causes Obesity? Nah, Say Coke-Funded Scientists

The key to maintaining a healthy weight isn’t limiting calories, but rather, increasing exercise, according to a group of scientists who are, unsurprisingly, getting support from the world’s largest soda company. The New York Times reports Coca-Cola donated $1.5 million last year to start nonprofit Global Energy Balance Network, which promotes the idea that Americans are too concerned with what they put in their mouths and not enough with what they do with their bodies. That’s on top of $4 million in funding Coke has given to the group’s founders since 2008. “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’—blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on,“ one of those founders, exercise scientist Steven Blair, says in a video. “And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.“

Blair argues GEBN is independent of Coke, though its website—dubbed “the voice of science"—is registered to Coke’s Atlanta headquarters and Coke is listed as a site administrator. Many of the group’s ideas about exercise and obesity are also backed by Coke-funded studies. The GEBN “is nothing but a front group for Coca-Cola,“ which is trying to “confuse the science and deflect attention from dietary intake,“ says a professor. Many other health experts argue Coke is downplaying the link between sugary drinks and fatal health problems and trying to convince people that exercise will make up for a poor diet. “Coca-Cola’s sales are slipping, and there’s this huge political and public backlash against soda,“ says a public health lawyer. “They’re desperate to stop the bleeding.“ Coke says researchers should “share their own views and scientific findings, regardless of the outcome,“ and be “open about our funding.“


Yellowstone Traps Bear Believed to Have Killed Hiker

Yellowstone biologists have caught a female grizzly near the site where an experienced hiker was mauled to death last week. If tests confirms she’s the one, the bear will be killed, reports the Billings Gazette. Authorities are still looking for a cub believed to have been with her during the attack, and the cub would be killed or sent to a zoo or some other facility if caught. The victim has been identified as 63-year-old Lance Crosby of Billings, Montana, who knew the park well, having worked in its medical clinics as a nurse for five years. He was walking alone, without bear spray, and his body was found about a half-mile from the nearest trail, reports AP.

That suggests he was ignoring park guidelines on all three counts, but authorities say the attack occurred so close to a well-traveled area that they have no choice but to kill the bear. “At this point in time, I have no knowledge that it could have been avoided,“ says Yellowstone superintendent Dave Wenk. “He was in an area that’s frequently used, a popular area that people went to. It’s not like he was bushwhacking through the forest.“


This Methane-Run Tractor Could Be a Gamechanger

Luca Remmert’s dream of running a self-sustainable farm is within sight. He produces energy from corn and grain near the northern Italian city of Turin and hopes in the not too distant future to run all of his eight tractors on methane generated at the farm. Remmert’s 1,100-acre La Bellotta farm has been testing a second-generation prototype of what will be the first tractor to run on methane, the T6 by New Holland Agriculture. Methane would be 30% cheaper than diesel. And for farms that produce their own bio-methane—a type of gas that is produced by the processing of organic waste—the costs of fuel would drop to nothing. The technology will likely be attractive to farmers in many developed economies, particularly those that are turning to the production of biofuel due to a squeeze on profits on food products.

The methane-run T6 will hit production in about five years, according to New Holland. The prototype produces 80% less pollution than a standard diesel tractor and will help meet future EU greenhouse gas targets. But for a farm to get the most savings out of it, it would have to be able to produce bio-methane, which has significant up-front equipment costs. In addition, the drive toward biofuels is being slowed by the sharp drop in fossil fuel costs over the last year, as well as environmental concerns about the transformation of farmland into energy production. Remmert says the biogas his farm produces runs an engine that supplies enough electricity to power 10,000 homes a year. The by-product of the fermentation to produce the biogas is used to fertilize the fields, saving him $335,000 a year in chemical fertilizers, while the carbon emissions saved from fossil fuels amount to 4,000 tons a year.

World News

The Gilmer Free Press

Chinese Imports Just Got Cheaper

China devalued its tightly controlled currency today following a slump in trade, allowing the yuan’s biggest one-day decline in a decade. The central bank says the “one-off depreciation” of 1.9% against the dollar, which follows signs of a weakening Chinese economy, is a move to make its exchange rate system more market-oriented, the BBC reports. The devaluation was the biggest one-day decline since Beijing ended the yuan’s direct link to the US dollar in July 2005 and switched to basing the exchange rate on a basket of foreign currencies. The composition of that basket is secret, but the dollar appears to dominate it, which means the yuan has been rising even as the currencies of other developing countries fell.

China’s move makes it the third major economy to take actions that weakened their currencies. Initiatives by Japan and the European Union over the past two years depressed the yen and euro. Analysts cautioned against seeing the change as a direct effort to help Chinese exporters, although the depreciation is expected to give the country’s flagging economy a boost. The Chinese move caused multiple other Asian currencies to fall against the US dollar, including the Thai baht, Philippine peso, and Singapore dollar, which are at their lowest in five or six years, and the Indonesian rupiah and Malaysian ringgit, which are now at their lowest since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the Wall Street Journal reports.


Shakespeare Gets a 400-Year-Old Drug Test

“To smoke or not to smoke” was not the question. Something had been smoked in the pipe bowls and stems unearthed from William Shakespeare’ garden in Stratford-upon-Avon; the question was what. Researchers in South Africa now have gas chromatography mass spectrometry to thank for their answer. A piece in the Conversation based on the report published in the South African Journal of Science explains the “technique is very sensitive to residues that can be preserved in pipes even if they had been smoked 400 years ago.“ Eight of the 24 pipe-fragment samples tested were shown to contain cannabis; another had evidence of nicotine, and two more “evidence for Peruvian cocaine from coca leaves.“

Of those, only four of the cannabis samples were from Shakespeare’s garden; the others were from the Stratford-upon-Avon area. Study author Francis Thackeray writes that the research establishes that a wide range of plants were smoked in the area during the early 17th century, and he leans on Shakespeare’s own words to try to draw connections. Thackeray references Sonnet 76, which refers to “invention in a noted weed”; he interprets weed as cannabis and invention as writing. As for whether we can conclude that Shakespeare got high, Thackeray writes “one can well imagine” it.


Parents Drive 93 Miles, Realize They Forgot Girl, 3

When hitting the road on a summer holiday, you’re bound to forget something. Hopefully it’s not your toddler. Police are questioning a French family after they apparently forgot their 3-year-old daughter at a rest stop while heading south to the French Riviera for a vacation. Travelers found the girl yesterday at a rest stop outside Loriol-sur-Drome, south of Valence, and waited for her family to return before calling police. The child could only tell officers that she had a brother and a sister and was “going to the seaside” when she saw “daddy’s car pull away,“ per the Guardian. Police issued an alert and the parents only noticed their mistake when they heard it on the radio about 45 minutes after the girl was found.

The child had apparently been left at the rest stop—which included a playground, per Sky News—around midday. “None of them had noticed she wasn’t there” in the vehicle, an officer says. The BBC reports the girl’s father called police at 3pm. By that point, the family had traveled 93 miles and were more than halfway to their destination. They turned around and were reunited with their daughter about two hours later at a police station. Police were questioning the girl’s parents last night to ensure the incident was just a case of forgetfulness. “We are going to listen to what they have to say and talk to the prosecutor at Valence to see if this should be taken further,“ the officer says. They’re still likely to lose out on the Parents of the Year award.

Martirano Says He Is Making Expectations Known As School Year Begins

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia State School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano says his student attendance initiative, announced Monday, starts with expectations.

“Every child, everyday in school. Regardless of a young person’s means or challenges they have in their lives every parent can make the decision to have their child in school everyday. It’s critical to the success of children and we want to make that an important focus of all of our schools in West Virginia.”

The first few weeks of school are critical, Martirano said.

“It takes two weeks for a good or bad habit to start or stop,” he said. “If a child is in school everyday for those first two weeks and they have perfect attendance that habit is going to continue.”

The initiative includes closely monitoring of school attendance by individual school principals and county superintendents along with letting parents know the expectations. Students who come to school should be rewarded while those who don’t should be held accountable, Martirano said.

“It’s got to be a value of what gets measured gets done,” he said. “If we want to make certain and we want to make a difference we have to monitor it and measure it everyday.”

Martirano, who grew up in Western Maryland, said school attendance was something that was expected along with hard work. He believes it’s a combination that still works.

“If you’re in school everyday by virtue of taking advantage of the instruction that occurs you are going to get that basic level of education,” he said. “If you’re in school and maximize your participation you can get those B’s and A’s.”

Statistics show students who have problem attending school in their early years of education are more likely to drop out.

08.11.2015
EducationNewsWest Virginia

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Hunters, Anglers Strongly Support EPA Clean Water Policy

CHARLESTON, WV – A national poll of hunters and anglers has found overwhelming support – even among conservatives – for what has been a controversial Environmental Protection agency clean water policy.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) commissioned the survey. It found more than four out of five hunters and anglers favor an EPA plan to apply Clean Water Act protections to some smaller headwaters and wetlands – protections that had been under a legal cloud.

The Gilmer Free Press
A National Wildlife Federation poll shows hunters and anglers
are willing to put aside their political differences in support of greater
EPA protections for clean water, including small headwaters and wetlands


Steve Moyer is vice president for government affairs at Trout Unlimited and a longtime fisherman.

“People in Appalachia really do care about the health of their streams and rivers, and they worry about the threats to clean water,“ he points out.

The new policy clarifies which waterways are defined as Waters of the U.S. and therefore protected under the Clean Water Act.

The coal industry has criticized the plan as over-regulation, and Republicans in Congress may attempt to overturn it.

But the NWF survey was done jointly by two polling firms, one Republican and one Democrat, and found strong support for the rule even among political conservatives.

Across the spectrum – age, geography, political orientation – people surveyed said clean water is a top priority.

Ed Perry, a long time hunter and an outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife, says the poll found three out of four Republican outdoor enthusiasts support the policy.

“It was deep and broad-based support all across the country – 73 percent of Republican hunters and anglers support the rule, 83 percent of Independents, and 95 percent of Democrats,“ he states.

Some national farm and real estate development groups oppose the new EPA policy. The farm groups argue it would mean regulation of every irrigation ditch and stock pond under the Clean Water Act. According to the EPA, that’s an inaccurate interpretation.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Ron Paul: Real Education Reform Leaves the Government Behind

The Gilmer Free Press

Among the items awaiting Congress when it returns from its August break is reconciling competing House and Senate bills reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. These bills passed early this spring. Each bill is being marketed as a huge step toward restoring state and local control over education. However, an examination of both bills shows that both provide local schools with only limited relief from a few federal mandates.

The biggest problem with these so-called reform bills is that they do not significantly reduce federal education spending. Congress and the executive branch use the promise of “free” money — which they have taken from the American taxpayer — to convince state and local governments to allow the federal government to control the classrooms. The only way to protect American schoolchildren from schemes like Common Core is to repeal, not replace, the federal Department of Education.

Restoring local control over education would be a good step toward restoring constitutional government. However, simply replacing federal bureaucrats with state, or even local, bureaucrats will not create an education system capable of leaving no child behind.

The key to real education reform is to give parents control over education by giving them control over the education dollar. When parents control the education dollar, schools must be responsive to parental demands that children receive a quality education that meets their unique needs. Therefore, if Congress was serious about improving education, it would defund the warfare-welfare state, which would then allow dramatically reduced taxes. Congress could also end the Federal Reserve, thus freeing middle and working class Americans from the regressive inflation tax.

In order to make parental control meaningful, parents must be able to choose from a variety of education alternatives. Thus, private schools, religious schools, and homeschools must be allowed to compete in a free market without government interference. This would allow parents to choose an appropriate education for their child.

The growing popularity of homeschooling has already created a thriving market in homeschooling curricula. Working with a team of scholars, I have developed my own homeschooling curriculum. My homeschooling curriculum provides students with a rigorous education in history, math, English, foreign languages, and other subjects. The curriculum is designed to benefit both college-bound students and those interested in pursuing other educational or career opportunities.

The curriculum features three tracks: natural science/math, social sciences/humanities, and business. Students may also take courses in personal finance and public speaking. The government and history sections of the curriculum emphasize Austrian economics, libertarian political theory, and the history of liberty. Unlike the curricula in too many government-run schools, my curriculum never sacrifices education quality to ideological indoctrination.

The curriculum is free for students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Families with a student above the fifth grade pay $250 a year, plus $50 per course.

I am offering three special deals to allow parents to see if my curriculum is right for their child. One is an academic boot camp, designed especially for college-bound students. This is a six-week course that should help students raise their grade point average by at least a full point.

The curriculum is also offering special courses in phonics and mathematics for preschoolers. Both courses consist of 40 video-based lessons designed to teach children basic math and reading in two months.

If you are a parent searching for an appropriate homeschool curriculum for your child, please consider enrolling your child in my academic boot camp, my preschool mathematics program, or my preschool phonics program. Go to ronpaulcurriculum.com for more information.

Gazette-Mail: WV to Reveal New Common Core-Based Test Scores Next Week

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia plans to publicly reveal this week the first results on its new elementary, middle and high school standardized test, which replaced the decade-old Westest in the spring and seeks to gauge whether students are meeting Common Core-based standards.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Kristin Anderson said the department will unveil the 2014-15 school year’s statewide proficiency rates for each grade level on Wednesday at the West Virginia Board of Education’s monthly meeting. School districts already have their local results, but they’re currently not allowed to release them to the public. Anderson declined to say how well Mountain State students performed until board members have had a chance to talk about the scores at their meeting.

She said districts will then be allowed to release their local test data or wait until the department publishes the county and school scores later this fall on its ZoomWV website.

The exam – called Smarter Balanced or, in this state, the West Virginia General Summative Assessment – is meant to test whether students are learning the Common Core-based math and English/language arts standards that West Virginia implemented statewide last school year. Over 40 states have adopted Common Core standards in the hopes of establishing a set of national teaching requirements that prepare students for colleges and careers.

Luci Willits, deputy executive director of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, said about 7 million students in 18 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and select schools within the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs all took Smarter Balanced exams last school year, the first operating year for the test after two years of preliminary runs. She said it was the first time so many states have joined together to take a similar assessment based off their mostly similar learning standards. 

“This is definitely a historic moment of states collaborating to improve student outcomes,” she said.

A point of using Smarter Balanced, other than providing a superior year-end test, is for West Virginia to be able to compare its results not just among its 55 counties, but with other states. Willits said Smarter Balanced test results are comparable among states, though she did note possible limitations. Three states took “fixed” tests where all students took the same questions, while West Virginia and others have “computer-adaptive” tests that give students more or less difficult questions based on how they performed on previous questions.

Willits said the consortium is a public agency – located at the University of California-Los Angeles – that’s funded and controlled by its member states. It was originally financed using federal Race to the Top grant money provided by the Obama administration. She said three states in the consortium – Oregon, Washington and Idaho – have released preliminary results, but none has released its full data. 

The West Virginia Department of Education waited until December to publicly release the results of the 2013-14 Westest. Wednesday’s reveal of the new Smarter Balanced results will be only two days after the new school year begins for most Kanawha County schools. Anderson said Greenbrier County was the first in the state to start the 2015-16 regular school year, with students returning to classes there Thursday.

Anderson said the state-level standardized testing results are being revealed earlier this school year because state Superintendent Michael Martirano wants transparency, and the results can be released sooner because they won’t be accompanied by “final accountability data.” In February, the state school board voted to put off until at least next school year assigning schools grades on its new A-F rating system – which will factor in growth in student scores on the new tests. Department officials have said proficiency rates on the new test won’t be directly comparable to those measured in past years by Westest, so the state needs two consecutive years of Smarter Balanced testing to accurately gauge progress and assign grades to schools on how well they’re teaching their students.

The A-F system is replacing the Accountability Index, which gave schools labels like “success” or “priority” based on students’ performance on the Westest and other factors.

Anderson said 99.6 percent of West Virginia’s Smarter Balanced tests had been scored as of July 7, and 100 percent as of the start of this month. She said all districts will be able to print off individual students’ results to send home with them. Jon Duffy, the Kanawha school district’s director of counseling and testing, said the county is currently printing students’ results, and they’ll be able to take them home, likely in the last week of August or early September.

Students in grades 3-11 will receive math and English/language arts results, and those in grades four, six and 10 will receive results for science as well.

Despite being tested, science is not part of the Common Core standards. In April, West Virginia adopted new science standards that are planned to take effect next school year, but they’re based off the Next Generation Science Standards, which are a separate national blueprint from the Common Core.

The Next Generation Science Standards do have Common Core connections embedded and were crafted with aid of the same Washington, D.C., nonprofit group, called Achieve. Perhaps confusingly, West Virginia has also redubbed its Common Core-based math and English/language arts standards as Next Generation.

Anderson said the superintendent and test coordinator in each county have the ability to see all individual students’ data, and principals will decide which students’ scores teachers are allowed to see. That could end up being only their current students’ scores, the scores of students in their classes last school year, or both. Individual students’ performance will not be publicized.

In Kanawha County, Duffy said that he, Superintendent Ron Duerring and the district’s assistant superintendents will be able to view data for individual students throughout the county. Principals and teachers will be allowed to view individual scores for all students in only their schools. Duffy said school counselors will also have access to the information.

The final Westest results released in December showed 58 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 11 failed to show proficiency in math, the highest failure rate since the 2009-10 school year. The state attributed a massive drop in test scores starting after the 2008-2009 school year to its raising of the level students must meet to be deemed proficient.

The number of students who failed to hit the mark in reading was 53 percent, also the highest since the 2009-10 school year. School officials attributed the lower scores partly to students having to take the test online for the first time. Smarter Balanced is also a computer test.

~~  Ryan Quinn ~~

08.11.2015
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PSC Promotes National 811 Day – Call Before You Dig

The Gilmer Free Press

The Public Service Commission of West Virginia reminds residents to call 811 before they dig on Tuesday, August 11 (8-11) and every other day.  Whether you are installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree or laying a patio, any project that requires digging also requires a call to West Virginia 811 before you begin.

As autumn approaches and people hurry to finish their outdoor projects, the 8-11 calendar date serves as a natural reminder to call West Virginia 811 a few days before beginning any digging project.  The depth of utility lines varies and lines can move when the ground freezes and thaws or an area receives a large amount of rain.  The risk of hitting an underground utility exists, even when digging only a few inches.  Striking a pipeline, wire or cable can cause personal injury or death and may result in costly repairs, fines or inconvenient outages.

When utility customers call West Virginia 811, the appropriate utility companies are notified of their intent to dig. Within 48 hours, professional locators from each company are sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags and paint. Once lines have been accurately marked, digging can begin.

There is no cost to the customer to use this service.

“On August 11 and throughout the year, we want to make homeowners and professional contractors aware of the danger of striking utility lines when digging. We urge them to call 811 before digging to eliminate that risk. Failure to call before digging has the potential for catastrophic consequences, and we do not want any West Virginians to become part of a tragic statistic,” said Michael Albert, Chairman of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia. “A free call to 811 can protect citizens working on any project that involves digging as well as the utility lines buried underground.”

Call 811 or 800.245.4848 before every digging project.

For more information about West Virginia 811, visit www.wv811.com  or www.psc.state.wv.us.

Did You Know?

The Gilmer Free Press

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:


FERGUSON, MISSOURI, AGAIN ON EDGE

Turmoil spreads after police - acting, they say, in self-defense - critically wound a black 18-year-old during a protest marking the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.


SIGNS OF IMPROVING RELATIONS BETWEEN TRUMP, FOX NEWS

The candidate tweets: “Roger Ailes just called. He is a great guy & assures me that `Trump’ will be treated fairly on (at)FoxNews.“


WHY CONCERN IS GROWING OVER SPILL FROM ABANDONED GOLD MINE

The yellow plume of wastewater stretches 100 miles along principal rivers in the desert Southwest and is three times larger than initially estimated, officials say.


ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD SEX ABUSE SHOCK PAKISTAN

Authorities say a gang forced some 270 children at gunpoint to be abused or drugged them into submission.


U.S. ROWERS FALL ILL AT TRIAL RUN FOR 2016 OLYMPICS

The stomach ailment suffered by 13 rowers adds to concerns about water quality at venues for the Rio de Janeiro games.


COCAINE SEIZURES SKYROCKET OFF LATIN AMERICA’S PACIFIC COAST

The Coast Guard credits the spike in seizures to its greater presence on the water after having to pull back boats because of budget cuts.


WHOSE WORK SCHEDULES MIGHT BE TOO TAXING

Air traffic controllers are often fatigued, making them less alert and endangering the safety of travelers, a U.S. government study says.


SCIENTISTS ID THREAT TO AMPHIBIANS

A family of parasites, related to a bug that attacks oysters, is found in the livers of frogs and tadpoles.


WHICH FILM FLOPPED AT BOX OFFICE

“Fantastic Four” amasses a mere $25.7 million in its weekend debut.


NEW TEAM. NEW CITY. SAME REX.

With his bigger than-life-personality, Rex Ryan has taken western New York by storm since arriving as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia State to host urban agriculture conference

INSTITUTE, WV - Locally grown food in urban areas will be the focus of a conference at West Virginia State University next month.

The West Virginia Urban Agriculture Conference will be held Sept. 17-19. Workshop topics include horticulture, homesteading, conservation and livestock.

West Virginia State extension agent and assistant professor John Porter says the conference will show that locally grown food is a possibility, whether the individual has a 100-acre farm or a backyard raised bed.

Porter says people in urban areas can help combat issues of food access, hunger and health.


Marshall to celebrate opening of engineering complex

HUNTINGTON, WV - Marshall University is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony this week to celebrate the opening of a $56 million engineering complex.

The Arthur Weisberg Family Applied Engineering Complex will be dedicated on Thursday during the ceremony on the Morrow Library lawn.

Speakers include U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and Marshall Interim President Gary G. White.

Marshall will offer tours of the complex following the ceremony.


Two Injured In Motorcycle Accident In Lewis County

WALDECK, WV —Two people were on a motorcycle traveling on 33 West when they ran off a round and crashed into a ditch.

The accident happened in a sharp turn in front of the Waldeck United Methodist Church.
Both the passenger and driver were taken to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital and are expected to be OK.


Head-On Crash in Lewis County

Roanoke, WV—Two people were flown to the hospital after a head-on crash on Interstate 79.
It happed around 3:00 p.m. near mile marker 91 in Lewis County.

According to officials, a driver in the northbound lane collided head-on with a driver in the southbound lane.

Three others were transported to area hospitals.

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