The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 6, 2014


— Over the past year, it has been at times difficult to get a handle on just where the state of West Virginia ranks when it comes to education.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation in its annual Kids Count put the state near the bottom of the rest of the country at No. 47.

But Education Week, in its annual Quality Counts report, ranked public education in West Virginia ninth-best in the nation.

Using different criteria would account for such a big difference, and that is no doubt the case here.

One thing we do know is that schools in the state are getting better. We’ve talked in the past about how the state has improved its truancy rate and, while there’s more to be done, we think that’s a positive trend that teachers, administrators, school boards and parents and kids themselves should get the credit they deserve.

Often those from outside the state are quick to point out the faults we have in West Virginia: a persistently poor and undiversified economy and an epidemic of drug abuse.

To deal with these problems, we first have to confront them. And we try to do that in a constructive way.

But it’s just as important to note our successes, and the progress we are making in West Virginia.

So today, we salute Abby Stimson, an eighth-grade student at Victory Baptist Academy, and Katie Mills, a sixth-grader representing the Raleigh Educational Association of Christian Homeschoolers. The two spellers were named co-champions in the Raleigh County Middle School Spelling Bee.

For the first time in history, two spellers were named co-champions in the bee after bee officials used up all the words in the hardest category.

The two spelled and spelled until bee officials just called it a tie.

Are these champions the exception in West Virginia? Perhaps the sacrifices they have made, the hours of drilling on proper spelling, does make them exceptional compared to most of their peers.

But the fact that they can thrive in public schools in southern West Virginia makes us think other students can, too.

What makes them work so hard? Involved parents for one, and good teachers, too.

There are more factors involved than just funding. A desire to learn, a thirst for knowledge and the satisfaction of knowing their accomplishments are both important and rewarded.

Raleigh County’s excess levy and bond call are on the ballot Saturday. Let’s make sure we as voters stand up for these kids whose commitment and sacrifice were there for all to see at the Spelling Bee.

We think they, and their classmates, deserve a yes vote.