W.Va. Board Makes Progress on Education Improvements

March 14, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Only a month after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin entrusted the West Virginia Board of Education to address educational improvements under its jurisdiction, significant progress has been made.

In a letter to the governor, the board reported it is working to strengthen teacher education programs and direct professional development to support reading on grade level by the end of third grade. The board is convening a group of key stakeholders in April to begin the development of a new teacher preparation approval process that will ensure that graduates deliver effective reading skills.  Working with the Appalachian Regional Comprehensive Center, this stakeholder group will consist primarily of faculty and staff from institutions of higher education, P-12 practitioners, central office members, administrators, as well as state board and West Virginia Department of Education staff. 

“The West Virginia Board of Education welcomes the opportunity to show our deep commitment to Gov. Tomblin and his progressive educational agenda through our proactive action plan,” said state board President Wade Linger.  “The board has readily accepted the governor’s challenge to revamp our education system to ensure we provide top-notch education to all our children.”

In addition, the board has formed the Commission on School District Governance and Administration to review the current governance structure of the 55 county boards of education and the operational costs. State board member Tom Campbell will serve as chairman. The first meeting will be convened within a month.  The work of the commission will be part of the state board’s newly formed Local and Regional Efficiencies Committee.

Significant progress has been made to improve the use of Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) to create efficiencies and to decentralize the delivery of professional development services. Specifically, the board has developed a standard operating procedure to facilitate universal adoption of cooperative purchasing at the local levels.  It is estimated that a 25 percent savings on $256 million of local purchasing will free up $60 million per year for classroom use.

In addition, the state board has directed the state Department of Education to re-allocate $1.6 million in internal staffing dollars to add 16 additional staff members to the RESAs for delivery of high-quality professional development at the local level. The board also has directed the WVDE to re-allocate $1.1 million of Teacher Leadership Institute money to the RESAs for teacher leadership training at the local level.

The board also has requested the WVDE work with each RESA to submit a compact outlining its plan for the roll out of the professional development of Next Generation Standards.   Each RESA was required to develop a professional development plan that provides a research-based rationale for how the professional development will improve student achievement.

To improve coordination of staff in cross-counseling efforts between public education and community colleges to ensure high school graduates are prepared for a career, board members have met with Pierpont Community and Technical College and with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The board is establishing a cross-counseling pilot project in north central West Virginia to provide career awareness and career counseling services to middle school students through a collaborative, public and postsecondary, education team. The pilot will provide an analysis as to the best process to take cross counseling statewide to make it possible for students to understand career options available to them at an earlier point in their education.

The board also is making progress on requiring every career center in West Virginia to adopt or develop at least one career pathway that meets Preparation for Tomorrow standards established by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).  Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of the SREB, addressed the state board at the March meeting.  The goal of this program is to enable students to master complex academic and technical concepts and graduate ready for as many options as possible in the workplace, technical colleges or universities. 

On Project 24, the board has been investigating the program to advise the governor on how to use technology to personalize and enhance the education of all students. The board received information on Project 24 from Chip Slaven, counsel to the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and author of the Each Child Learns Act, a draft legislation model for states on personalized and digital learning.

Slaven told the board that quality teaching, enhanced through the effective use of technology, can improve learning by personalizing it for each student. He placed particular focus on blended learning classroom models that use high quality digital learning content with real time data.

“Participation in this project is a smart next step in self-paced learning and will ensure we use technology in the most efficient and effective ways,” Linger said. “Technology holds the potential to transform the way teaching and learning occur in our state, and knowing that former Gov. Bob Wise now heads the Alliance gives us additional assurance that our participation will be productive.”

For more information, contact the Office of Communication at 304-558-2699.