W.Va. Already On the Road to Change Recommended in New National Report

December 22, 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia is ahead of many of other states in its efforts to add world-class rigor to its curriculum.  Underscoring the link between a world-class education and a sound U.S. economy, leading education experts on Friday issued a report offering sweeping recommendations to internationally benchmark educational performance.

The report, "Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-class Education" released by the International Benchmarking Advisory Group, provides states a roadmap for benchmarking their K-12 education systems against those of top-performing nations.  The report, which can be viewed at http://www.nga.org/Files/pdf/0812BENCHMARKING.PDF, explains the urgent need for action and outlines what states and the federal government must do to ensure U.S. students receive a world-class education that provides expanded opportunities for college and career success.

"Now more than ever, West Virginia will focus on supporting high quality professional development for teachers and student assessments that align with real-world learning," state Superintendent Steve Paine said. "Teaching students is no longer about how many facts can be memorized. Students must be able to comprehend, problem solve and communicate solutions if they are expected to collaborate globally."

The Advisory Group identified five transformative steps American education needs to undergo to produce more globally competitive students:

1.      Upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12;
2.      Leverage states' collective influence to ensure textbooks, digital media, curricula and assessments are aligned to internationally benchmarked standards and draw on lessons from high-performing nations;
3.      Revise state policies for recruiting, preparing, developing and supporting teachers and school leaders to reflect the "human capital" practices of top-performing nations and states around the world;
4.      Hold schools and systems accountable through monitoring, interventions and support to ensure consistently high performance, drawing upon international best practices; and
5.      Measure state-level education performance globally by examining student achievement and attainment in an international context to ensure that students are receiving the education they need to compete in the 21st century economy.

West Virginia has worked hard since 2005 to revamp its education system from preschool to high school. The state Board of Education has revised West Virginia Content Standards and Objectives to incorporate 21st century skills, including learning and thinking skills; information and communications skills; technology skills; and work place productivity skills.

West Virginia has aligned its state standards not only with the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) but also with international standards found in international assessments, including the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS).

West Virginia's 21st Century Learning program also includes a more challenging assessment, WESTEST 2, which increases the expectations of what a student should know and be able to do upon graduation from high school.  At the core of the plan are teachers who are eager to bring 21st century learning to their classrooms.

Already, other states are turning to West Virginia for guidance on 21st century teaching and learning. The state's path to incorporating 21st century skills into the classroom is now outlined on the department's Web site in a document, "A Chronicle of West Virginia 21st Learning Initiative." The document, which was compiled by Edvantia, can be accessed at http://wvde.state.wv.us/tt/2008/21stChronicle082008.pdf

International benchmarking can help state policymakers identify the qualities and characteristics of education systems that best prepare students for success in the global marketplace. Understanding these intricacies will provide state leaders the insights necessary to provide students with expanded opportunities for success.

"We are now living in a world without borders, and in order to maintain America's competitive edge into the future we need students who are prepared to compete not only with their American peers, but with students from all across the globe for the jobs of tomorrow," said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, co-chair of the Advisory Group.

For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education's Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.


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