The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 17, 2013

Our Readers Speak — Friday, May 17, 2013

Statistics indicate bigger is not better

A plan to let a county choose its own path should be a popular choice. Usually when a county is taken over, it doesn’t get a chance to decide its own fate. This is an opportunity for our schools to get some much-needed facilities improvements and an opportunity for the citizens to make a statement about the future of the children of our county.

Some people want to centralize resources to improve student achievement. Consolidation won’t help anything. I believe our small schools work well. Not only do they provide a quality education, they allow more people to actively participate in extracurricular activities. Consolidation would provide a similar education, not an improved one, and take away extracurricular opportunities from some students.

I looked at some data to see where Fayette County Schools’ problems were. Fayette was 54th in math and 52nd in RLA. Then I looked at our schools as divisions. Our high schools were 41st in the state in math and 36th in RLA. Our middle schools were 55th in math and 54th in RLA. Our elementary schools were 55th in math and 49th in RLA.

Our problems are not at the high school level. The data speaks for itself.

I also looked at each of the high schools. Since Midland Trail and Oak Hill are evaluated only on their 11th grade for NCLB/AYP purposes, I looked at 11th grade only to make an accurate comparison. In math the schools rank: first, Meadow Bridge; second, Midland Trail; third, Fayetteville; fourth, Oak Hill; fifth, Valley.

In RLA the schools rank: first, Meadow Bridge; second, Fayetteville; third, Midland Trail; fourth, Valley; fifth, Oak Hill. Of 114 high schools listed, Oak Hill ranked 105th in math and 100th in RLA. Proof, in Fayette County at least, bigger is not better.

The CEFP would consolidate our three best performing schools and leave the worst two alone. That doesn’t seem like a solid plan of improvement.

Some people say we have a thin curriculum. Each school offers every course required by the state, many electives and numerous AP classes. Oak Hill is the biggest school in Fayette County and should offer more courses than the other high schools. This should mean they outperform the other schools. As seen in the WESTEST2 data, that is not the case.

Composite ACT scores in 2012 also reflect a similar pattern. Meadow Bridge, the smallest high school in the county, has the highest average composite score at 19.9. Oak Hill ranks third at 19.4. It’s not always about “what” is being taught, but “how” it’s being taught. Teachers at our smaller schools seem to be connecting to their students with more success.

Looking at graduation rates, we see that larger schools are again outperformed. Meadow Bridge led the way in 2012 with a graduation rate of 95.2 percent. Valley was second at 74.4 percent. Oak Hill was third at 70.5 percent. Midland Trail was fourth at 68.3 percent. Fayetteville was fifth at 65.9 percent. Again showing that bigger is not always better.

In conclusion, I believe the data show that small schools are working better in Fayette County than some people claim. I hope the data I have presented is the “convincing data” everyone is looking for. I would ask that all Fayette County citizens support this effort to get some much-needed improvements for our schools and help keep them open.


Dwayne Reichard

Meadow Bridge