BOE Considers Changes to How it Monitors Academic Progress of Home School Students

By Lon Anderson
Moorefield Examiner

A proposed change concerning requirements for monitoring the academic progress of home school students in Hardy County was tabled by the Board of Education at its meeting on July 20. Board members Janet Clayton Rose and Dixie Bean both wanted more detailed information before voting on the issue.

The proposed policy involving home schools and private schools “is an update based upon state changes,” explained Superintendent Sheena Van Meter. The purpose of the policy, according to its description, is to “implement West Virginia State law dealing with private schools and home schools and to verify that all students between the ages of 6 and 17 are receiving an education.”

Concern about the policy focused on the ways it allows students being home schooled to be assessed on their progress annually. The policy identifies three ways: “a nationally-normed standardized achievement test,” [private]participation in “the testing program currently in use at Hardy County Public Schools,” or by submitting a “portfolio of samples of a child’s work that is reviewed by a certified teacher.”

“I feel like we should always require a portfolio to see some of the student’s work,” said Rose.

“You could decide to do that as a Board,” Van Meter responded. “We can be more restrictive than State policy.”

“I feel like we should do that,” Rose continued. “I don’t want to be negative, but it concerns me when students don’t have the experience of a professional teacher. I’ve always felt that this policy is a little lax. Maybe they should all be required to take some virtual classes.”

“You have said that home school kids do well on the tests,” noted Bean.

“Most of them do extremely well,” responded Van Meter. “For the most part our home school kids are doing very well. I can have staff put together some information about how our home school kids are doing,” she volunteered.

“I’ve run into some that haven’t done so well,” Bean said. “I think we do need to hear from Jodie (Shewbridge, who monitors home schooling),” indicating that she favored tabling consideration of the policy until they could hear from staff.

With that, member Nancy Hahn made the motion which passed unanimously.

The Board also heard a plea from a parent, Sharon Auville, to adjust a policy (#2510) that regulates weighting of grades for the juniors and seniors that take college classes. Last year, she explained the grades in those classes were not weighted, but under a change this year, those taking the classes this year will be weighted.

The impact to this change, she explained, means that her daughter, who in her junior year took nine college courses and earned 27 credits, will not earn as a high a GPA as the seniors who take those courses this year, when the grades will be weighted. “This automatically puts her at a disadvantage because she was proactive and took those classes as a junior.”

“This does not fairly reward the students for their actual work,” Auville continued. “It instead rewards them for their timing. Students should be rewarded equally for their hard work in the same courses.”

Auville, who is also a fifth grade teacher at Moorefield Intermediate School, suggested two possible avenues for the Board to consider to ensure that all students doing the same work are graded equally.

“I am asking that students in the class of 2021 who took college courses as a junior be granted weighted grades retroactively, or essentially grandfathered in for the purpose of calculating their GPA.”

As an alternative, she said, “the County could ask for a waiver from the State Board of Education for the current senior class…and not follow the policy for 2021. The result would be that all (college) courses from the junior and senior years are valued the same.”

As per their practice for the public comment period, the Board did not respond to Auville, but took her comments under advisement.

The Board approved a new calendar for the school year, required by Governor Jim Justice’s move of the school start date to September 8, Van Meter explained. The adjustments, she continued, meet all the requirements, and mean staff will start back full-time on August 24th, giving them two weeks to prepare for the new year.

The new calendar, she said, allows for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and actually has some extra time built in because there will be no snow days, since students can attend virtual classes.

But board members also had some specific concerns about the planning for the school days. “I noticed arrival times are within 20 minutes of when they have to be in class,” said Bean. “Does that kill the breakfasts we’ve provided?”

“They will come in and grab and go,” Van Meter explained. This will also reduce student interactions, which we are trying to discourage. In other instances, she explained, teachers will get coolers with milk and the meals and take them to their classrooms.

Board President Doug Hines asked about the Votech dismissal times, which are often very tightly scheduled, since those classes are taught in Petersburg.

Enrollment is up for those classes, Van Meter responded, so probably more bus runs will be necessary.

“Are we going to need more buses (given the Covid-19 spaced seating)?” asked Board Vice President Melvin Shook.

“We won’t know that until we see how many registrations are for virtual classes,” Van Meter said.

At that point, Rose remarked that the “response to the virtual school seems to be going very well,” and congratulated the superintendent and her staff.

“We’ve been very pleased—it has been well received,” Van Meter responded.

In other action, the Board also approved a delay in textbook approvals for music and art classes. “We haven’t had time to review them,” explained Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Strawderman.[/private]