WEBSTER SPRINGS, W.Va. — West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says there’s not a teacher in the Mountain State that’s happy with the tests results released earlier this week that show the state’s 4th and 8th graders below the national average when it comes to proficiency in math.
Lee, who was in Webster County during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” Friday, said it’s a combination of things that has contributed to the lower scores starting with teachers being tied down with constantly changing standards and persistent testing.
“They are practicing testing, doing benchmarking and everything else. You’re spending so much time in testing that you’re really not having the opportunity to cover the instruction that you need,” Lee said. “Give the teachers the time and the flexibility to cover the instruction and the material they need to cover.”
Scores from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the nation’s education report card, show 35 percent of West Virginia fourth graders were proficient in math, which is two percent higher than 2015 but below the national average of 40 percent. Only 33 percent of eighth graders are considered proficient in the subject.
Lee offered some explanation for the low scores.
“These 8th graders have gone through three different standards in their academic careers and that’s been a hindrance to them,” Lee said. “Secondly, we continue to change our math curriculum and we need to settle on a curriculum and stick to it. We need to go back to the basics. That’s what teachers tell me as I travel across the state.”
State School Superintendent Dr. Steve Paine suggested earlier this week it may be time to add more training to the college curriculum of aspiring elementary school teachers in West Virginia in the area of math. Lee doesn’t totally agree.
“I would have concerns about a statement like that. I think we can improve the number of hours we are taking the math and improve our instruction in math, but again, when you’re looking at different curriculums and you go through so many curriculums you really can’t let one thing sink in before you change it. That’s what counties are doing to our students and teachers,” Lee said.
He promotes “out of the box” thinking like allowing elementary teachers who are stronger in math to teach more math.
“There’s a lot of things we can look at but the only way it’s going to be successful is that you go to the teachers who are dealing with it every day,” Lee said. “They are the experts in education. Give them the time and resources to figure it out and we’ll get this thing moving in the right direction.”
Lee said there’s also a problem with the lack of certified teachers, 727 classrooms statewide, about 50 of those in elementary schools.
State School Board member Debra Sullivan said earlier this week there needs to be an attitude change among some teachers when it comes to math.
“They lack the passion and so children are being turned off to math and they’re believing they can’t do math from a very young age,” she said.
The 10-year trend in the NAEP score in math and reading in West Virginia have shown virtually no improvement.