It may not have been formally called such, but state School Superintendent Jim Phares essentially gave a State of Education Address to the House and Senate education committees Tuesday on the eve of the 60-day regular legislative session.
With education reform expected to be one of the major topics during the session, Phares told lawmakers he won’t “sugarcoat” the problems. He shared some unflattering numbers from the 2011 national assessment tests.
“Grade 4 mathematics, West Virginia was 45th in the nation. In Grade 4 reading, West Virginia was 43rd in the nation. In 2011, Grade 8 mathematics and reading, West Virginia was 47th in the nation,” Phares said.
“We have a myriad of statutes and policies that are embedded throughout our educational structures in West Virginia and they’re barriers for educators to be able to do their jobs.” — Jim Phares
The superintendent told lawmakers he has been traveling the state for the past month meeting with county school boards and hearing from teachers and principals. Phares said they know change is needed, but emphasized it’s unfair to place all the blame on teachers for underachievement issues.
“It’s time for all of us to stop beating them down,” he said. “It’s time for all of us to start lifting them up.”
Phares said teachers want to teach and principals want to lead but bureaucracy has held many of them back.
“We have a myriad of statutes and policies that are embedded throughout our educational structures in West Virginia and they’re barriers for educators to be able to do their jobs as we expect them to do. (Educators) tell us this each day,” Phares said.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to lay out several educational reforms during his State of the State Address on Wednesday night. Lawmakers will have those and others to consider. Superintendent Phares urged the delegates and senators to “channel the debate” while being “both wise and courageous.”
“We must do better,” Phares said.