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.”