West Virginia schools need a reformer

West Virginia Board of Education members plan to select a new state superintendent of schools Wednesday. In many ways, it will be the most important decision made in our state this summer.

That is saying a lot, of course. The upheaval caused by COVID-19 has had, and will continue to have, dramatic effects on every Mountain State resident. But giving our children the tools to succeed remains state government’s most important task.

We are not doing very well at that, in general. Though some schools and school districts seem to do well, the state as a whole is failing in public education.

Evidence of that is abundant — according to the Department of Education itself. Its own “Balanced Scorecard” evaluation system paints a dismal picture.

Balanced Scorecard rates schools on a four-level scale, according to how well they meet state standards.

According to the most recent evaluation, West Virginia high schools — on average — meet English language standards only partially. They do not measure up to mathematics requirements at all.

In fact, there are only two evaluation categories in which schools are rated as having met or achieved state standards — and they are in the categories of student behavior in elementary and middle schools.

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do.

Three finalists for state superintendent have been named. They are interim Superintendent Clayton Burch, Assistant Superintendent Kathy D’Antoni and Jackson County schools Superintendent Blaine Hess. One of the three will be selected on Wednesday.

Clearly, the person named to oversee West Virginia’s 657 public schools will need to be a leader in reform. We have to get back to basics in our schools — and we will need the best leadership available to accomplish that.


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