Improving our public schools
For decades West Virginians have followed national trends and, in effect, thrown money and fads at public education in an attempt to improve it. Frustrated teachers – and we have many good ones – complain they are kept so busy following the rules that they can’t teach.
The result has been public schools that are failing Mountain State young people in many ways. Virtually any benchmark available, from standardized test scores to success in college, tells us that.
Last week Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin introduced a 179-page bill intended to begin the process of real reform in West Virginia public schools. Despite the fact most lawmakers agree the very foundations of education need to be re-examined, and, in many cases, rebuilt, the measure may face an uphill battle in the Legislature. The state’s two powerful teachers’ unions oppose it vehemently.
Indeed, the bill is not perfect. For example, it envisions using the Teach for America program, which has powerful friends in Washington, to provide pathways into classrooms for prospective educators who don’t have teaching degrees. But several colleges and universities in the state already have excellent alternative certification programs for teachers.
On balance, however, the Tomblin plan is good. It includes increased emphasis on reading education, vocational/career training and preschool programs, for example.
Tomblin’s proposal is no magic wand. Meaningful school reform will take years of hard work. We have to start somewhere, however, and the governor’s bill appears to set a solid foundation for improvement.
Legislators may want to make some changes in the proposal – but before their current session ends, they should approve the bulk of the bill.