|Members of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability (LOCRA) learned Sunday that statutory provisions of House Bill 3025, known as the Third Grade Success Act, relating to actual grade retention, will be effective in the 2026 school year, although this year’s class of kindergarten through third-grade students will benefit from various aspects of the legislation.Deputy State Superintendent Sonya White provided legislators with an update primarily about efforts the state Department of Education is taking to implement the legislation.
The Act requires the state Board of Education to develop screeners and benchmark assessments in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics for students in kindergarten through third grade, as well as a multi-tiered system of support for students exhibiting substantial reading or math deficiencies to ensure students are proficient before moving past the third grade. The bill also allows for teacher aides and interventionists in early elementary classrooms up to third grade.
According to Ms. White, many provisions of the legislation are included in West Virginia Board of Education Policy 2512, one of several policies developed by the Department of Education to comply with the Third Grade Success Act.
The state Board of Education’s policies to implement the legislation are placed on 60-day public comment: http://wvde.state.wv.us/policies/onlinecomment.html?id=2512 / https://apps.sos.wv.gov/adlaw/csr/readfile.aspx?DocId=56628&Format=PDF
Updates to Policy 2512 include inserting the science of reading and numeracy alongside literacy into state Board of Education policy and the development of a statewide comprehensive approach to close reading and mathematics achievement gaps by third grade.
Approved screeners and or benchmark assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics will be administered three times during a school year for students in kindergarten through third grade. Students who don’t meet the benchmarks will be provided with tiered intervention to help the student improve.
Beginning with this year’s kindergarten students, if a student is not proficient in reading and math by the end of third grade in 2026, the student will not be promoted to fourth grade until the deficiencies are removed. The law doesn’t apply to students with disabilities with an individualized education plan (IEP), foreign students who are English language learners, students who have been receiving extensive intervention for two years and receiving special education services, students exempt for good cause, and students diagnosed with dyslexia and dyscalculia.
Ms. White said there is a difference between the tiered interventions included in the Third Grade Success Act and an IEP. While similar to the Title I program that has been in public schools for decades to help students not meeting reading and math benchmarks, the tiered interventions will be more intensive.
In a meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education, Ms. White was asked by Senator Mike Oliverio of Monongalia County whether “interventionalists” include persons who work with county boards through contracted services, which the state Supreme Court sanctioned under a favorable ruling in 2016.
Ms. White said interventionalists must be approved by the WVDE, and interventionalists other than school employees must be approved, subject to existing law.
House Education Vice Chairman Joe Statler of Monongalia County asked a similar question but from the vantage of retired educators serving in these positions. He also expressed concern whether the state has sufficient personnel to meet the legislative mandate.
At Sunday’s LOCEA meeting, House Education Chairman Joe Ellington of Mercer County also said the legislation required reportage from grades four, five, and eight in terms of assessment data based on student progress, including county interventions, to gauge academic progress.
Ms. White said the WVDE would provide the information in a subsequent report, although she said the legislation emphasized grade three reporting and that another state Board Policy could be amended to take that consideration into account.
Earlier in the meeting, Senator Rollan Roberts of Raleigh County inquired whether the legislation would end up being “an education shell game” in terms of implementation.
Several LOCEA members, expressing support for the legislation, said frequent legislative updates will keep legislators informed about its impact.
The Department of Education has submitted two monthly reports to the Commission as required by the Third Grade Success Act for July and August. The department held two training sessions for reading, science, and numeracy in Charleston and Morgantown this summer for teachers as part of the Invest Conference.
“I was lucky enough to attend the Invest Conference, and it was tremendous, tremendous information,” said commission Co-Chair Amy Grady of Mason County. “Everybody that was there were really energized and really excited about it. And when you are attending a conference as a teacher over the summer, it’s not really exciting. But everybody that I talked to were really energized and looking forward to it. And all the presentations I saw in the classes I took were wonderful. So kudos to the department on that.”
Ms. White also provided an update about the Invest Conference to the Joint Standing Committee.
In other interim sessions regarding public education, legislators received information about these topics:
Coach evaluations. House Bill 2597, with provisions relating to evaluating public school coaches, doesn’t appear to affect only professional educators who serve as coaches rather than school service personnel or “citizen coaches” school districts may employ if professionals don’t express interest in a school coaching position, according to Senate Education counsel, who responded to a legislator’s inquiry. (The law addresses extracurricular activities, which may include cheerleading coaches and others.)
School counselors. Molly Sigmon, a Wyoming County school counselor, discussed duties of school counselors, saying despite a state law that requires school counselors to devote at least 80% of their time to counseling-related issues, counselors may feel pressured to assume other school- or class-related duties. The matter has been discussed in previous legislative sessions.
Future Leaders Program (FLP). A student leadership program, which emphasizes post-secondary employment, enlistment, or education (its ‘three Es’) could be useful in all counties, although some county superintendents told Deborah Patterson, who has primary responsibility for running the program, that the $80,000 fee, which includes staffing, materials, and travel for the Future Leaders Program, is beyond the ability of some smaller county boards to pay. Legislators praised the program, which Ms. Patterson says operates in nine counties. She said the program’s success relates not only to the “three Es” emphasis but also because of structure, peer accountability, and exposing students to varied opportunities. She said while many FLP students enlist in the U.S. military, the program is designed for “all students,” with no especial emphasis on “at-risk” students or students referred to the program for disciplinary reasons. Philip Cantrell, director/intergovernmental and external affairs for the West Virginia National Guard Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy, also praised the leadership program while discussing the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy.
Level All. Kevin Kenney, founder and CEO of Level All, explained a program aimed specifically at students whose family income might be prohibitive for higher education studies. Mr. Kenney stressed the program was essentially “free for life,” and that it provided a customized approach that serves to make students aware of career choices at an early age and also ensures students receive resources — the program features an online portal — to guide self-exploration of careers through “personalized, in-depth support, and guidance.”