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Admitting We Have a Problem

January 13, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

One reason improving West Virginia public education is such a slow process is that we keep hearing how great schools already are. Shame on those who know better for perpetuating that farce.

It happened again this week when a national publication, Education Week, released its annual Quality Counts report on schools throughout the United States.

Mountain State public schools are among the 10 best state systems in the country, according to this year's Quality Counts report. It gave public education here a B-minus grade, higher than the nationwide average of C-plus.

But the report's evaluation of student achievement graded West Virginia at "F." Our state's schools have the third-worst level of student achievement in the nation, behind only Mississippi and the District of Columbia, according to Education Week.

What else matters when the topic is school quality? Nothing. Absolutely, positively nothing.

Apparently, Education Week's evaluators were so pleased with what they found regarding how school finances are handled, how student success is evaluated and other factors that they decided we earned a top-10 rating. But in effect, that is all window-dressing. What counts is the F we received for student achievement.

The selective vision so many West Virginians have regarding our schools is nothing new, but it is guided carefully. Often we hear of successes and awards - but we have to do some digging on our own to find the less flattering statistics.

As we have noted for many years, only one standardized test is administered to children in every state and at several grade levels. It is the National Assessment of Educational Progress - and Mountain State children, on average, do not perform well on it in comparison to their peers elsewhere.

To his credit, new state school Superintendent Jim Phares referred to the Quality Counts report as "disturbing." It is that.

We West Virginians need to admit we are failing many of the children in our public schools badly. Only once we acknowledge the depth of the problem can we make meaningful attempts at reform.

 
 

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