The Times West Virginian

November 25, 2012

No quick fixes when it comes to education

Times West Virginian

— If your car is making strange noises and appears to be losing gas mileage, you take it to a mechanic. If you can’t stay awake during the work day and are seeing spots, you go see a doctor.

In both cases, a battery of tests will be run to determine the cause of the problem.

Sometimes its a quick fix. Replace this part. Here, take this pill twice a day and call me in a week.

But sometimes the fix isn’t so quick and involves a change in a habit or a lifestyle choice. Change your oil every 3,000 miles and stop driving until the tank is empty. Lose 50 pounds and quick drinking pop.

If it feels like something maybe wrong with the statewide school system and the West Virginia Department of Education, you undergo an audit, as directed last year by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. But the issue at hand is that there are no quick fixes to the problems the department faces.

In fact, many of those issues will have to be solved with enabling legislation.

And the department of education will go on with a new leader.

In a very surprising move, the West Virginia Board of Education fired Superintendent Jorea Marple on Nov. 15. While there are concerns that the open meeting laws may have been violated and the board will meet again to discuss the issue on Thursday, there probably won’t be a difference in the 5-2 vote that led to the end of her career.

“We are not satisfied with our current levels of performance and progress,” board President Wade Linger said last week as the BOE presented a 130-page document responding to the audit. “The board has begun the process of establishing measurable objectives that challenge all schools to improve student learning. We are developing initiatives on the use of time, teaching, technology, operational and management efficiency, raising educational quality statewide and accreditation restructuring — the game changers that will move the system forward more quickly.”

There are things the BOE found in the audit that it supports, like eliminating 10 upper-level administrative positions in the WVDE, which has been accused of being bogged down by state-level bureaucracy. There are other audit finding the board agrees with, like professional development for educators and addressing teacher recruitment and hiring.

Above all, the $90 million per year the audit suggests can be achieved in savings must be reinvested in the school system, the BOE said.

But when it comes to education reform, there are no easy answers.

Our forum for the tough questions is on, where we ask our readers to weigh in on the issues in our online poll. Last week, we asked “State Superintendent Jorea Marple was fired last week in an apparent effort by the BOE to kick start education reform. What needs to be addressed first”

Student achievement. Our failure to make any improvement toward Adequate Yearly Progress statewide is embarrassing — 6.19 percent

Teacher accountability. Nothing will change until the attitudes change on the classroom level — 34.51 percent

The top-heavy administration. More funds should go toward teachers on the battle fronts, not the “generals” on the hill — 59.29 percent

It will be interesting to see what state lawmakers do with the recommendations, but we look forward to seeing some positive changes.

This week, let’s talk a little about Christmas and the Christmas shopping season. Feeling like Jolly Ol’ St. Nick or Ebeneezer Scrooge this year?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond directly online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor