ED-WATCH: WV'S SCHOOLS ARE IN CRISIS - Few Are Yelling "Fire"

(01/24/2013)

COMMENT Diane Weaver

The West Virginia public education system is in crisis, but few are using the crisis word. It didn't happen overnight.

The state just received a failing grade, when it comes to achievement by kindergarten through 12th graders, for the third year in a row by Education Week.

The "F" score from the magazine joins a number of widely-recognized national education organizations, including the Nation's Report Card, that puts West Virginia's educational outcomes near the bottom.

While there's a tendency to blame local school boards and systems, for the most part, they are at the mercy of the state bureaucracy. But few of them have become outraged by being on the sinking ship.

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Roger Propst says, "Rural counties like Calhoun, many that do not have levies, frequently struggle to employ teachers to replace multitudes of retirees, especially in critical needs areas such as math and science. This results in having to rely on out-of-field teachers on permit, or long-term substitutes to fill the gaps."

While Education Week gives West Virginia failing grades for student's educational achievement, it ranks the state's school system in the top 10 in the country based on administrative policy efforts and assessments.

Less than 19% of the state's 15-year-olds are proficient in math, according to the Program for International Student Assessment, only three percent of eight graders considered "advanced," the worst rating in the nation.

There are lots of things in crisis, crisis "wars" on just about everything, except education.

While most state legislators, US senators and congressional representatives are taking strong "crisis" political stands on guns, the "fiscal cliff," and the so-called war on depleting coal - West Virginia ranks 49th of 50 states in science and engineering readiness.

Help to increase the knowledge base in the Mountain State hasn't come in bringing real broadband to the state. By most accounts it remains near the bottom in access.

With outcome scores in the USA, West Virginia is dead last in fourth and eighth-grade reading proficiency tests.

With the ACT test for college entrance, the state is 13 points behind the rest of the states, and those rankings are not good.

One-fourth of West students drop high school before graduating, those are often individuals who become drug and alcohol addicted, landing in legal trouble.

The current national average for students with high Advanced Placement scores is about 22. West Virginia's is about 9.

West Virginia, however, ranked as third-best in the country when it comes to standards, assessments and accountability, in which the report measures state policies to ensure students' progress is being appropriately evaluated.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin called for improvement from the state's system in his State of the State address.

Since this has not been declared a "crisis," there is plenty of elbow room to make a few changes.

See related story   ED-WATCH: State Board Proposing County Option Year 'Round School - State Officials Say They Will Fix Broken System


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