Teach children more, not less

Spending less time teaching students at a time when multiple indicators suggest we in the Mountain State are not educating many of them adequately does not make sense.

Yet on Wednesday, state Board of Education President David Perry suggested that legislators should consider reducing the number of required instructional days in West Virginia public schools.

Also last week, results of a new round of National Assessment of Educational Progress testing were released. The news was not good.

Since the last NAEP testing in 2017, fourth-grade students’ math scores in West Virginia have decreased by an average of 5 points on a 500-point scale. The average score this year was 231, compared to 236 in 2017.

Ours was among just three states recording statistically significant drops in scoring.

The others were Vermont and Wyoming — each scoring 2 points lower than in 2017.

State education officials have argued for years — with some justification — that NAEP scores are not an accurate reflection of school achievement in West Virginia. But, coming on top of dismal results in the state’s own evaluations, the NAEP results ought to be another nail in the coffin of how we do things in public schools.

During a “Listening Tour” public meeting at John Marshall High School in Glen Dale on Wednesday, Perry noted that many teachers complain complying with state and federal mandates leaves them with inadequate time for professional development. Virginia addressed that by reducing the number of days teachers are required to be instructing students.

“I have long been an advocate in the Legislature for reducing the number of instructional days to 175 (from the current 180) and using those extra five days for continuing education,” Perry commented.

But is the problem that teachers are spending too much time educating children — or too much on bureaucratic red tape? Perhaps policymakers ought to consider reducing the burden of keeping the folks in Charleston and Washington happy.

In addition to giving teachers more time to, well, teach, that could give school systems more resources to educate.

As we have suggested several times in the past, the problem is not that Mountain State children are less educable than their peers elsewhere. It is not that West Virginia teachers are less capable and conscientious. It is that the system is broken in many ways.

Merely giving teachers more time to cope with that system is not the answer to improving our schools.


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