The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

January 15, 2014

Innovation school zones touted

CHARLESTON — Because teachers can see what their students need and how instruction should be delivered, one area board of education member says Innovation School District Zones will help students achieve more in the classroom.

Innovation Zones — school districts “seeking near autonomy” — involves how the district spends its money and how teachers use classroom resources, said Greg Prudich, vice-president of the West Virginia School Board Association, and president of the Mercer County Board of Education.

Developing the Innovation Zones requires input from faculty, staff and the local community, and would provide local control where change would be a benefit. The detailed process would begin with introspective sessions that identify the school district’s strengths and weaknesses, and what needs work, Prudich said. In the end, school programs would be designed at the local level, he continued.

“I have seen it work,” Prudich said. “Teachers in my county are the experts. We want them to lead the process.”

Prudich said that because the process is developed locally, unintended consequences or problems that arise can be dealt with more quickly.

“It’s perfect for West Virginia,” Prudich said. Innovation Zones would require ongoing monitoring, he said, but have the potential to “recreate public schools at the county level.”

In response to a question from Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, Prudich said the ultimate consequence would be the district going back to state control.

“I’m an optimist. I believe you’ll see substantial growth,” he said. “You’ll be surprised at the results.”

One of those results would be better test scores, but those scores are not one of the criteria for a district becoming an Innovation Zone, Prudich said.

“If you give (the district) the opportunity to do the things they need to be doing, their test scores will naturally rise,” he said.

 —  E-mail: ppritt@register-herald.com

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