The Tragi-Comedy Of Monongalia County Schools Administration


The hypocrisy of Mon Schools superintendent Frank Devono is impressive. The Dominion Post reports today that

“Only six of Monongalia County’s public schools met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) last school year [on the WESTEST]. But the top administrator said that is not a reflection of the education those schools are providing…. [Superintendent Frank Devono] said No Child Left Behind, the federal program that mandates the testing criteria, is outdated and needs to be revised. ‘This is not a true measure of the success our schools experience,’ he said. ‘This is no indicator of the excellence within our schools.’

Superintendent Devono’s dismissive comments about the tests come in light of Mon Schools’ failing 2010-2011 test scores. Contrast this with what Superintendent Devono said about these tests a mere two years prior to 2010, to begin the 2008-2009 school year, in his report “CSOs, WESTEST 2 and Crossing the Digital Divide“:

“The results of cumulative assessments such as the WESTEST 2 and NAEP indicate more than student achievement of CSO’s [WV Content Standards and Objectives]. They’re also yardsticks measuring our ability to reach our students – sometimes across that digital divide – through rigorous instruction delivered with relevancy to their ‘real world’.”

No wonder that Superintendent Devono would want to play down last year’s failure of 12 of the district’s 18 schools to meet the AYP standards, a 67 percent rate, significantly worse than the state’s 52 percent rate of school test failure. Even more discreditable, Mon Schools’ Superintendent and the clueless school board, over strong popular will, decided to permanently get rid of two small schools that happen to be two of the six schools that did meet the AYP standards: Woodburn and Easton Elementaries. According to the Dominion Post:

“Twelve of Monongalia County’s 18 public schools (66.7 percent) failed to meet AYP during the 2010-’11 school year, compared to just four (22.2 percent) in the 2009-’10 school year, the state DOE said.

“The schools that did not meet AYP are Brookhaven Elementary, Ridgedale Elementary, North Elementary, Mountainview Elementary, Mason-Dixon Elementary, Mylan Park Elementary, Mountaineer Middle, Westwood Middle, South Middle, Clay-Battelle High, Morgantown High and University High. Those that did meet AYP are Easton Elementary, Suncrest Primary, Woodburn Elementary, Cheat Lake Elementary, Skyview Elementary, and Suncrest Middle.

“Statewide, 363 of 692 schools (52.46 percent) failed to meet AYP in the m recent school year, compared to 128 of 694 schools (18.44 percent) in the prior year.”

And so it is that, basically, according to Superintendent Devono, the tests mattered in the past but not anymore, not given these latest results, which show exactly what we reviewed here yesterday: the value of small neighborhood schools. Mon Schools’ three smallest elementaries account for half of all the schools in the district that met AYP standards: Suncrest, Easton, and Woodburn, the latter two to be closed permanently and consolidated into Eastwood elementary on the Mileground next year – an unpopular, anti-educational, and unsafe move. Meanwhile, little Suncrest Elementary has repeatedly been threatened with closure. It’s as if Mon Schools delights in being obstinately anti-educational.

Let’s take a closer look at the data, which is quite revealing. Of the schools that passed the AYP tests:

1) three are the smallest schools in the district (Woodburn, Easton, Suncrest);

2) two of these small schools have the most impoverished students (Woodburn & Easton); these two schools did well presumably in significant part because they are small, since low-income correlates inversely with academic success, nationwide; and

3) the schools with the most affluent students (Cheat Lake Elementary, Suncrest Elementary & Suncrest Middle) did well presumably in significant part because wealth correlates with academic success, nationwide.

Finally, Skyview Elementary also met standards and would appear to be the sole outlier to schools having a small student body or relatively affluent students as factors that account for academic achievement.

This sample size is of course not large enough to have any scientific meaning, but it is suggestive and in line with the best knowledge of careful professional research.

But according to the Superintendent who has been pushing for and building big consolidated schools over the past half dozen years:  these tests that he lauded a few short years ago are “not a true measure of the success our schools experience.” They can’t be, otherwise his policies and views would be shown to be pathetically and outrageously wrong. “This is no indicator of the excellence within our schools.” Whether or not the tests have as much value as they ostensibly do is not the point. The point is the hypocrisy toward the tests by the top administrator of Mon Schools, the existence of which calls into serious question once again both his competence and any minimal level of professionalism.

And the school board not only turns a blind eye, it echoes the Superintendent, applauds him, and pays him top dollar with big multi-year raises. One incompetent and unprofessional hand feeds the other. It’s as if the Superintendent gets paid to defy and oppose with the maximum amount of manipulation the public for which he is supposed to work.

Such is the typical sorry state of officialdom where no organized public exists to enact the popular will.

Only three years ago: “The results of cumulative assessments such as the WESTEST 2 and NAEP indicate more than student achievement of CSO’s. They’re also yardsticks measuring our ability to reach our students – sometimes across that digital divide – through rigorous instruction delivered with relevancy to their ‘real world’.”

Today:  “This is not a true measure of the success our schools experience… This is no indicator of the excellence within our schools.”

So no problem then to get rid of the proficient small schools, such as Woodburn and Easton. And to repeatedly threaten Suncrest.

The Emperor wears no clothes. Yet again.

The Dominion Post reports that:

“Norma Gaines, Monongalia County Schools’ federal program manager…said schools with higher numbers of economically disadvantaged children are often the schools that fail to meet AYP. She said studies show that groups of economically disadvantaged children have more difficulty mastering reading, writing and math.”

Yes, but that problem is alleviated by small neighborhood schools such as in Easton and Woodburn, both to be gotten rid of with great haste.

“Mountainview’s principal, Karen Collins, referred a call for comment Tuesday to the Board of Education. Dennis Gallon, principal of Cheat Lake Elementary, said he doesn’t know why some schools, such as his, meet AYP requirements while others don’t. ‘The kinds of programs and efforts we make here are very much like what all the other schools are doing,’ he said. ‘Why we were successful and other places were not, I have no answer for that’.”

Dear educators Gaines, Collins, and Gallon, the research is not exactly a mysterious unknown, and you probably know it. In fact, the research is widely known to show that low-income children in small neighborhood schools (e.g.: Easton Elementary & Woodburn Elementary) do academically better than low-income children in larger schools and that relatively affluent students (e.g.: in Suncrest Elementary, Suncrest Middle, and Cheat Lake Elementary) outperform lower-income students academically.

Are these lower level administrators playing possum because they don’t want to contradict the top administrator and the negligent school board line?

UPDATE: Now on August 26, the Dominion Post reports the same phenomenon about the results of testing in the county next door to Monongalia: “Only Preston County’s three smallest schools met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) last year.”

Monongalia County and neighboring Preston County combined have 30 public schools. In those two counties combined last year, the 6 smallest public schools passed the AYP tests. Only two other schools passed, which means that 22 of the larger schools failed. To recap: the 6 smallest schools passed, 22 of the larger schools failed, 2 other schools passed. Next year, Mon Schools intends to close two of its smallest passing schools to combine them into a larger school (Eastwood), against the public will and best knowledge. It’s anti-educational, the bulk of research shows, just as we have been pointing out for years now. And it’s otherwise stupid, lousy, and dangerously wrong.

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