The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

February 7, 2013

State education leaders talk school calendars, funding

SOUTH CHARLESTON — West Virginia already has the money and the time on its public schools calendar to improve student performance, and must first make the most out of both before it increases funding or adds days, education leaders told a Thursday forum of reporters and editors.

But restoring respect for teachers — including by improving their pay — must also be a goal as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and lawmakers tackle the education system this session, the audience at The Associated Press’ annual Legislative Lookahead heard.

Marshall University’s graduate campus hosted the daylong forum. The speakers touched on the recent audit of public schools that’s certain to influence Tomblin’s agenda for the 60-day session, which begins Wednesday. A number of legislators have embraced that wide-ranging study as well. It described a system rigid with policies limited by state law and a sprawling state-level department, and notes that West Virginia lags behind on student achievement benchmarks despite hefty annual spending. Much of the study proposes ways to save money so the system can invest more at the classroom level.

The state Board of Education has endorsed the bulk of the audit. Its response to the study touts a year-round or “balanced” calendar, now operating at just a handful of schools statewide, as an alternative to the traditional, August-to-June schedule.

State Schools Superintendent Jim Phares said the board isn’t mandating a year-round calendar statewide. A veteran of several county school systems, Phares instead called for recognizing the pace at which each child learns. Technology will increasingly aid this new approach, Phares said. He noted that officials have instead focused on requiring 180 days in the classroom each year.

“I think that discussion needs to start and it needs to happen,” Phares said. “All of it is in this whole idea of reimagining how we use our time.”

David Haney of the West Virginia Education Association welcomed Phares’ stance. Haney’s group represents both teachers and school administrators, and has been wrongly tagged as opposing year-round schooling, he said.

“We support a balanced calendar any place that a county wants to attempt it to do it to achieve their goals,” said Haney, a vice president of WVEA.

Terry Wallace is a retired educator and administrator now with the Institute for Innovation in Education at West Liberty University. Wallace recounted turning around low-performing schools in several states first by measuring the time spent daily on actually teaching such core items as math and reading. Too often, high quality instruction amounts to just an hour or two, Wallace said. All manner of interruptions mar the school day, from intercom announcements to Christmas play rehearsals, he said.

“Our curriculum is too broad and too shallow,” Wallace said. He added, “What we need to look at before we add more days to the calendar, and before we look at mandating year-round learning, that we get the most out of what we have already. Once we’ve exhausted that, we need to look at extending it.”

But Haney said a smarter calendar must also provide teachers with more time to work together, particularly so they develop learning plans for each student. He also repeated his group’s longstanding call to boost teacher salaries. He and Phares exchanged anecdotes from within their own families, of quality teachers lured out-of-state or to other careers by better pay. But Phares also faulted state hiring policies, arguing that their inflexibility gives competing districts a leg up when recruiting new teachers.

Wallace suggested allowing non-traditional ways for training and certifying teachers, citing a program that aims to attract military veterans to classrooms. But Haney said that returning troopers have dropped out of such programs because of the rigors and low pay of teaching.

The speakers did appear to agree that public schools and higher education should communicate more. Collaboration would allow college-ready high school students graduate earlier, freeing up space and resources for needier students, Wallace said. Phares said higher education instructors could help high school seniors before they enter college and find they need remedial courses. Haney said the state much also do more to steer interested students toward vocational or two-year colleges when that path appears more appropriate.

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • East River Mountain Tunnel repairs will continue for several weeks

    Motorists traveling Interstate 77 could see slight delays again tonight as repair work continues inside of the fire-damaged East River Mountain Tunnel.

    July 30, 2014

  • State leaders to attend coal rally in Pittsburgh

    West Virginia officials are set to join hundreds of coal miners and coal supporters at an electricity and energy jobs rally.

    July 30, 2014

  • Americans continue to be plagued by debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills. 

    July 30, 2014

  • twvcheck Theatre West Virginia gives back to hospice

    Theatre West Virginia, even with its shortened season this year, has found a way to give back to the community. 

    Mike Cavendish, a past board president at TWV, presented Hospice of Southern West Virginia with a check Thursday for over $1,000. 

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former Summers County commissioner indicted

    The Summers County grand jury handed up indictments against 17 individuals this month, including one against a former county commissioner. 

    July 30, 2014

  • Weaker prices widen second quarter losses for Arch Coal

     Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer’s latest earnings surpass analysts’ expectations.

    July 30, 2014

  • pasiley Watery delight

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • State DHHR workers to picket over large caseloads

    West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employees are picketing outside the agency's Fayette County office to raise awareness over what they call large, unmanageable caseloads.

    July 29, 2014

  • Arch Coal posts bigger 2Q loss

    Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer's latest earnings surpass analysts' expectations.

     

    July 29, 2014

  • UPDATE: East River Mountain Tunnel repairs mostly complete

    The Virginia Department of Transportation was able to complete its repairs of the East River Mountain Tunnel overnight. There will be no need for the closure this evening. 

    July 29, 2014