CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia must buck the trend in public education if it is to achieve what many call the most fundamental aspect of the state’s new education reform law.

State lawmakers passed the comprehensive bill this year after it was proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Among the requirements is a mandate for all students to be reading to grade level by the third grade.

State Associate Superintendent of Schools Robert Hull told MetroNews a 45-member stakeholder group met Friday to begin forming a plan to meet the requirement. He said it’s going to take some consistency, which at times public education can lack.

“Education as a profession for the past 50 years has not been very good at sticking with something. We tend to go with the trend or what the fad is, but we must take this seriously, stick with it and get it done,” he said.

A common misnomer is that everything about improving reading comes in the classroom, Hull said.

“They think that is where we need to impact our efforts to make a difference in reading, but we have solid research that shows students that come from poverty” struggle with reading, Hull said. “So there’s much we can do in the community.”

He said programs like First to Three and wellness efforts can help squeeze the gap between young children who improve in reading and those from poorer homes who lose ground.

“From the time they enter kindergarten to the time they exit fifth grade there’s a two and a half year gap based on that summer reading loss,” Hull said.

Six working groups have been assigned to examine the issue, and Hull said some gains could be expected within the next year. Professional development efforts for existing teachers are taking shape, along with work by higher education to prepare new teachers with training to teach reading. He added the state also will seek new resources to teach reading during the next year.

If education reform is going to work in West Virginia, Hull said the grade level reading component must be mastered.

“It is a daunting task but it’s the right task and one we have to focus on,” he said. “The governor and the legislature have all invested in us the charge to have all kids be college and career ready. And we cannot do that without having the firm foundation in the early grades.”

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  • Tim McClung

    One voice that is missing here is the student's. Public education is being driven by the decisions and biases of a people that have forgot (or don't care) that learning is natural, part of who and what we are as humans. I highly recommend a book written by Elliot Washor, Leaving To Learn.

    how well do you think public education is meeting the expectations of today's young people.?

  • Imgrill

    Most high school students take many standard test . Much more than a week. Local school can very I guess but our county says they are state mandated. From first to twelve students Lose almost a full year of instruction to take these test.

  • Imgrill

    Not sticking to any particular program is a huge part of the issue. Legislators and boards of ed have turned education policy over to " consulting " firms . They only care about selling a program not with improving schools. Poor pay has caused many good teachers out of our schools is an issue. Spending money on gimmick technology has cost states millions. Turns out "smart boards " don't make smart students( who could have guessed). Parents are a huge problem, they see working part-time at Kroger as more important than doing well in school. Students need to make learning a priority, they don't see long term advantages. Unless all this is addressed your wasting time and money. We usually get the schools we deserve based on the things I've mentioned, you can't ignore something then magically want it fixed by a stroke of a pen. Most people know very little about running a school( attending one won't make you an expert) so they want one thing to gauge success or failure(because it's easy). That's why the testing craze . Take a look at how much time a school spends on this nonsense, but the folks who sell the test are sure it will fix everything. Bring back common sense. Tell teachers to teach, students to learn ( or be held back), and parents to parent. Politicians stay out, send the consultants to go away. Local control of schools not mandated fixes.

    • GW

      I spend one week testing each year. The test is designed to align with the standards, and the test is cake if standards are taught. The media spends more time on testing than the average classroom.

  • Aleda

    “Education as a profession for the past 50 years has not been very good at sticking with something. We tend to go with the trend or what the fad is but we must take this seriously, stick with it and get it done,” he (Robert Hull) said.

    Teachers are "consistently" being told that what we've been doing is wrong as each new band wagon passes, or as each government "higher up" (not in a classroom) decides what is best for education. Teachers should be able to use the professional skills they have acquired. "One size fits all" mandates do not work with all learners.

  • Herb

    If parents can't/won't/don't read, neither will their children. There is no policy that will change that. I have the highest respect for the parents who still have that old-school mentality that "my children are going to do better than I did". Unfortunately, they are outnumbered by the "school never done me no good" crowd, the lifetime welfare recipients who have no concept of an education preparing them for the work force, and the insecure ones who are embarrassed at the thought that their children may be smarter than they are.

    In my opinion, school reform has reached the point of diminishing returns. We could do a lot more good for kids by improving their home lives than we can by tweaking teaching methods and writing new policy, but we have very little authority over what happens at home. To put it another way, you can't fix a wobbly stool by building up the long leg.

    • SAF

      Amen and amen!

    • Joe

      Then why don't we just train social workers to be teachers? There you go, that's a good idea.

      • SAF

        Why don't we train parents how to be parents?

      • Herb

        To tell the truth, the kids I see struggling the most in school need social services more than they need teachers at the moment. If a kid's head is not right because of problems at home, there's a limit to how much teachers can do for him.

        As far as training social workers to be teachers there is some overlap in the skills we both use, but even if the state were to put in some kind of Teach for America kind of crash course, there's still the issue of how many years it takes to learn the subject matter. If we had people who were qualified to be both social workers and teachers that would be an awesome resource, but how many people are willing to go to college for eight years up front just for a teacher's salary?

        • GW

          How many career social workers do you know? Very high turnover rate in that profession.

          • Herb

            Two. One came to the profession later in life and will probably leave it, the other is 90 years old and won't retire because she sees it as a religious calling. That job has all the worst parts of teaching, more danger, lower salaries, less funding, and all the frustration that comes from banging your head against the wall trying to save people from themselves. The only part of that job that is better than teaching is that they aren't held accountable for the test scores of people who don't want to be educated, but I'm sure they get an equal share of top-down meddling from bureaucrats who don't understand their day-to-day jobs just like we do.

  • Joe

    I guess I'm confused. Based on more than numerous comments in the past, I was under the impression significantly increased salaries, according to the wvea and aft, would solve the problem.

    In addition, what additional professional development. We constantly hear our teachers are tops in elementary education.

    • Herb

      Joe, you're right, the NEA and AFT have been pushing for a long time to raise salaries to keep experienced teachers in-state. The county I just left has followed the old Pittsburgh Pirates player development system for a long time: sign 'em young and cheap, then trade 'em away and start over when they get good enough to demand more money. [I am very happy to have been able to stay in West Virginia, though.]

      Step one has been to attract and keep the talent, which taxpayers in many of our counties have stepped up and done. Now step two has got to be for the state and county education systems to get out of their way and let them do what they do best. Why ask the taxpayers to pay for talent if they're not going to use it effectively?

  • Luke

    Interesting picture to go with this story given that the black population of WV is a little over 2%!

    Concerned Educator may be right about this program. Besides, I thought teaching reading was already a focus of elementary education.

    Not to worry though the Manchins are in charge.

  • a concerned educator

    This is just another joke policy from the WVDE. Just as George Bush claimed that all students would be working on grade level by 2014, Tomblin has fallen into the same trap here in WV.

    This policy will also fail because students bring too much baggage from home. Not all parents help their children at home, and some don't even take the time to look in their backpacks to see what homework is needed. This blame cannot be put on the teachers or principals. Until education goes back to the basics, and parents are held with greater accountability for their actions regarding their children, nothing will happen.

    Let the teachers teach and the principals lead. Keep ridiculous policies (both federal and state) out of the classroom, and go back to the basics of education. Then, and only then, will we see true reform, and results, in our education system.

    • SAF

      We have to have parents who care so we will have children who care! Until parents remind their children that school is their job, the whole education system has a problem! Education starts at home. Dear parents, if you have children, then take responsibility for them.

    • Teacher Too

      Amen !!!!

    • Leo

      Well said. We need to go back to the way we were taught. How is it that we were able to learn? Because the principals and teachers were in charge, not the students and parents. We weren't entertained, we were taught and until we go back to that and hold both the parents and students accountable, nothing will get better. I am a teacher, not an entertainer or facilitator, I spent a lot of money and time preparing to teach, so how about letting that happen and stop letting people who have never set foot in a classroom make all our education decisions.

      • DonaldH

        Not to sound unappreciative of the turmoil a public educator at the class-room level must endure but as a parent I will have a say as to who teaches my children as well as to what, when and how my children are taught. . Should I always have the final say? absolutely not, that would be ridiculous.

        Spend more class room time on Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic and less time on political and social engineering agendas and we would have a more literate populace. Quit pandering to the educational wants of this special interest group or that special interest group.

        Bring the bottom achievers up not the top achievers down.

        • GW

          You honestly have ZERO idea what really goes on in a classroom, do you? Readin', Ritin', and 'Rithmetic is exactly what brings the top achievers down. So much focus is on the bottom, that the top is never allowed to achieve.