W.Va. Schools Adapt to Changing World

August 18, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – President Barack Obama has said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

As students, educators and others prepare for the start of a new school year, they will return to a changed environment. From preschool to high school, schools are putting President Obama’s words into action. They are not waiting for some other person or time to make changes that must occur to improve how we educate children.

“We would have done our children an unforgivable disservice if we did not recognize that globalization has changed the way West Virginia and other states think about educating students,” said state Superintendent Steve Paine. “When you look at how most schools operate, little has changed in decades. If we fail to change what we know must change, we will continue to prepare students for our pasts instead of their futures.”

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that today's students will have 10 to 14 jobs by the age of 38. Thirty or 40 years ago, we knew the kinds of jobs our students would have. Now, 80 percent of the jobs today’s students will have don’t even exist yet. That’s why it’s important to learn the same skills that children across the world are learning.

Employers, including Verizon, Intel and Cisco, have said that they want workers who are able to think strategically, use technology wisely, work collaboratively and communicate effectively. Employees are expected to have these skills their first day on the job. In today's weak economy, the resumes of those who don't speak the language of the 21st century are quickly passed over.

Students returning to school this year will be greeted with more rigorous and robust standards, which went into effect in 2008. These more stringent Content Standards and Objects add world-class rigor to core subjects. They also align with national standards in the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP), ACT, and SAT, as well as with international standards in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS).

This improvement plan is called Global21: Students deserve it. The world demands it. The plan helps public schools move beyond teacher-centered instruction to student-centered learning. The focus now is on core curriculum, such as science and math, as well as 21st century performance skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and collaboration.

Part of the transformation of West Virginia schools into 21st learning centers, includes a more rigorous assessment of learning. The West Virginia Educational Standards Test 2 (WESTEST 2) replaced the original WESTEST. Result of the test given to students in grades 3 through 11 in all 55 counties last spring are now in. While there is always room for improvement, West Virginia students are rising to meet the challenges presented by WESTEST2, Paine said.

“Measuring learning is an integral part of the instructional process in the 21st century classroom,” Paine said. “I am confident the steps outlined in Global21 will lead to real student achievement as we help our kids to be globally intelligent and resilient in a digital world.”

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

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