Education Blogs
"Short Takes: What Senate Bill 359 Means for Public School Students in West Virginia"
23 Apr 2013
Blog Post

Several provisions of the recent education reform bill, signed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on April 10, will have a very direct impact on students. The bill rightfully received a great deal of media attention, but much of the focus was on the bill’s impact on teachers and the reactions of the two teacher unions. With this edition of Short Takes, we are starting a dialogue about how this bill will directly affect students. We would love to get some feedback about the bill. Please contact us at info@educationalliance and let us know your thoughts.


Provision: §18-2-39 (College and Career Readiness Initiative)


Impacts: Students completing high school in 2015 and beyond


What’s New:

  • College and Career Readiness Standards. Results from the 11th-grade statewide assessment (currently the WESTEST2) will determine if a student is meeting college and career readiness standards in mathematics and English/language arts. The West Virginia Board of Education will adopt these standards before the 2014-15 year. It is not clear at this time whether the new standards will affect the Class of 2015. This is one of many issues that will need to be addressed by legislative rules, which the State Board must promulgate before December 31, 2013.
  • Transitional Courses. Any student not meeting college and career readiness standards must take a “transitional course” in mathematics or reading/language arts during his or her senior year of high school.
  • Exit Exams for Transitional Courses. To be considered college and career ready, students in transitional courses must pass the Computerized Adaptive Placement Assessment and Support System (COMPASS) exam or another exam that has been approved by the State Board, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, and the Council for Community and Technical College Education.
  • End-of-Course Exams. Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, the State Board can replace the statewide assessment with end-of-course exams for English/language arts and mathematics—which the Board would develop and implement—to determine if students have met college and career readiness standards. If developed, these end-of-course exams will be administered before the 12th grade so students can enroll in transitional course work during their senior years.
  • Placement in College-Level Development/Remedial Courses. For students graduating in or after 2017, state institutions of higher education must administer tests adopted by the State Board, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, and the Council for Community and Technical College Education to place students in a remedial/developmental course or a college-level introductory course. However, two- and four-year state institutions can administer diagnostic tests to identify and remediate specific areas of weakness without the students having to enroll in an entire course.


Anticipated Outcomes:

  • An increase in the percentage of students who complete high school and who are college and career ready in terms of mathematics and English/language arts skills
  • A decrease in the percentage of high school students enrolling in developmental/remedial courses in mathematics and English/language arts at West Virginia’s two- and four year institutions.



This section of the education bill was included to help ensure that all high school graduates are college and career ready before completing high school. According to data from Complete College America, nearly 70% of freshman at two-year colleges and 20% of freshmen at four-year colleges in West Virginia currently require some remedial coursework in mathematics or reading/language arts. Developmental courses at the college level do not appear to prepare students for the rigors of college. Of the current students in West Virginia who are pursuing two-year degrees and who are enrolled in developmental coursework, only 8.4% are projected to graduate within three years. The rates for students attending four-year institutions are equally stunning: only 32% of students who have completed developmental course work are projected to receive a four-year degree within six years.  Whether public school students plan on pursing postsecondary education or entering the workforce right after high school, future high school graduates will need to demonstrate their mastery of the state’s yet unspecified college and career readiness standards in English/language arts and mathematics.




  • Will students receive grades for transitional courses, or will these courses be offered pass/fail?
  • What will happen if a student refuses to enroll in a transitional course?
  • Are there a sufficient number of effective teachers/tutors to offer transitional mathematics courses in every high school? For example, if the threshold for mathematics is set at the mastery level, 53% of 11th-grade students in 2011-12 would have qualified for transitional courses. This would have amounted to nearly 10,000 students. In this scenario, would the state have enough effective mathematics teachers to offer transitional courses to some 10,000 students? In addition, would these courses be substituted in place of existing courses on the students’ schedules, or would they be added as perhaps an after-school option? As another option, would they be offered online?
  • Do transitional courses count toward high graduation requirements for mathematics and English/language arts? 
  • Finally, What impact, if any, will transitional courses have on high school completion requirements and rates?