"This has been a great year for public education in West Virginia," Dr. Stewart told the audience of more than 1,000 educators and community leaders. "I'm pleased to report that the State of the Schools in West Virginia is strong - "very strong."
During his hour-long multimedia presentation, Dr. Stewart discussed highlights of the year, examined the future of education and spotlighted a few of the people "who make the Mountain State the best place to live, work and educate young people."
The State Superintendent discussed numerous recent achievements and initiatives of West Virginia education, including:
- West Virginia has invested almost $1 billion in school construction during the past decade. Eighty-five percent of the state's students are attending facilities constructed or improved through this significant investment.
- The state is now a recognized leader in education technology. Recently, an independent study by the Center for Children and Technology found that the Reinventing Education program -- a partnership program with IBM -- has produced substantial gains in all curricular areas for middle and high school students.
- West Virginia is among the nation's leaders in improved National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) scores.
- Twenty-one additional West Virginia teachers earned the highest professional credential in the field of teaching -- National Board Certification -- in 2001. West Virginia offers financial incentives to any teacher holding this certification.
- Student ACT scores (college placement test) are at their highest level ever.
- West Virginia's Virtual School is now operating. The Virtual School offers high quality educational courses through the Internet to students in even the most rural parts of the state.
- A Cadre of "Distinguished Educators" knowledgeable about education and education reform will be the Department's liaison with seriously-impaired schools and will work intensively to bring about improvement.
- A testing committee has met several times over the last 10 months and will recommend a new testing system to the State Board next week. Most importantly, assessments will be aligned with the West Virginia content standards or Instructional Goals and Objectives and will be primarily criterion-referenced.
Dr. Stewart also outlined the seven refined goals adopted by the West Virginia Board of Education and the Department of Education.
"These goals were established after a series of statewide public forums sponsored by the West Virginia Board of Education last fall and the conscientious work of Department professionals," he noted. "These refined goals emphasize the importance of basic skills, especially reading; recognize the importance of developing responsibility, citizenship and strong character in students; communicate the need for early childhood programs that prepare children to learn; stress the importance of lifelong learning; and reinforce the need for improvements in middle school and adolescent education."
Dr. Stewart discussed efforts to repair schools damaged by recent floods and recognized the hard work of people who "have rallied together to rebuild, relocate and assist towns and schools with recovery efforts."
He also thanked West Virginia school employees for their dedication and commitment to children.
"I am proud to be the State Superintendent of Schools and to be associated with such outstanding professionals," he said to teachers, administrators, service personnel and all school employees. "I thank each of you for the hard work you do every day in the schools and classrooms across this state. The future of West Virginia is bright -- because you light the way."