State cites educational progress

CHARLESTON – West Virginia education officials say they’ve made progress on the governor’s education priorities but more needs to be done.

The priorities outlined by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in February include professional development for teachers and pursuing Project 24, a program developed by former governor Bob Wise that integrates technology into everyday lessons for students to enhance college readiness.

The state Board of Education outlined progress on these priorities in a status report drafted during a special meeting on Wednesday. The full report has not yet been approved and the board will continue to make recommendations, the Charleston Gazette reported.

“The No. 1 thing is that this report isn’t a list of things that’s going to be done; it’s actually a list of things that have been done,” state Schools Superintendent Jim Phares said. “Because, quite often, when you get a book like that, it’s full of big ideas and no results. This one is just the opposite. Every individual, every committee that worked on this, actually got stuff done, in terms of meeting deadlines and checking things off.”

Phares said the board’s work on preparing students for a career after high school is the biggest accomplishment so far.

Twenty-one simulated workplaces that enhance vocational education and encourage individual learning have been implemented in schools across the state. The Department of Education plans to increase the number to 45 by the 2014-2015 school year.

“I think that’s the No. 1 thing that he (Tomblin) is going to be happiest with . . ., and here’s why: We have a tremendous sense of urgency in this state, due to the economic development on the western side of the state, to have people work-ready,” Phares said. “The clear and readily apparent message that kept coming through was we’ve got to have kids come into high school ready to go to work for many of the jobs that are being created over there.”

“For the first time, maybe ever, the board, the department and the Governor’s Office actually were kind of on the same wavelength all the way through it.”

Overhauling professional development for teachers needs the most work, he said.

“That’s the thing that has come out in all of these different reports . . . no matter what you look at. When Project 24 comes through, you’re going to see a very prevalent theme that deals with professional development,” he said “The biggest concern about the calendar bill is how do we make time for professional development. We’ve got to get focused, targeted professional development for kids coming straight out of school.”

Tomblin had asked the board to establish an annual professional development master plan and to “aggressively pursue” the use of Regional Education Service Agencies to create efficiencies and decentralize the delivery of professional development services.

Through a local-control initiative, the board has nearly tripled the number of teachers trained statewide over the past year.

The board also has established a committee to research better ways to help teachers with their professional development.