State Board of Education Makes Significant Progress Addressing Reading by the Third Grade

July 11, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia Board of Education on Wednesday took the first of many steps to address lagging student achievement in reading throughout the state.

In his State of the State Address, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin asked the state board to take actions within its authority to assure all students are reading at grade level by the end of the third grade. The board addressed the request during its July meeting by mandating that all new teachers take and pass an assessment guaranteeing they possess the necessary skills to teach reading.

"This is just the beginning," said Gayle Manchin, co-chair of the board's High-Quality Educator Committee. "We continue to work with our colleges and universities to raise standards for teachers, especially in the area of reading instruction, and we also have begun exploring how we can assure that all our current teachers have the skills needed for the critical task of teaching not only reading but all subjects to our youngest students."

Adequate third grade reading skills was just one of the updates resulting from the education reform agenda ignited by Gov. Tomblin. During the past few months, the state board has addressed several challenges set forth by the governor, including:

  • certifying teacher education programs and directing professional development to support reading on grade level by the end of third grade;
  • establishing a commission to review the current governance structure of the 55 county boards of education and the costs that necessitates;
  • aggressively pursuing the use of Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) to create efficiencies and to decentralize the delivery of professional development services;
  • pursuing coordination of staff in cross-counseling efforts between public education and community colleges to ensure high school graduates are prepared for a career;
  • requiring every career center in West Virginia to adopt or develop at least one career pathway that meets Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) standards for Preparation for Tomorrow; and
  • investigating Project 24, a national effort to help school districts plan for and effectively use technology, and advising the Governor's Office on using technology in West Virginia to personalize and enhance the education of all students.

Other significant progress made in June and July by the board to meet new education goals include scheduled sessions with West Virginia's higher education institutions to develop the final plan for strengthening teacher preparation and supporting reading on grade level by the end of third grade. In addition, the Commission on School District Governance and Administration held its second meeting on June 11 to focus on the implications of the Recht Decision, which found that public education in West Virginia is a fundamental constitutional right. The group also addressed changes in public education in West Virginia through the years and reasons for shifts in student achievement. The July commission meeting will provide an overview of organizational effectiveness from Mike Usdan with the SREB, as well as an overview of school district effectiveness by Manny Arvon, Berkeley County superintendent of schools. RESAs were given flexibility to fill two positions for the 2013-2014 school year using repurposed funding from the West Virginia Department of Education. Also, the College and Career Readiness Committee has focused efforts on creating a robust pilot program to provide career awareness and career counseling services to middle school students through a collaborative, public and post-secondary education team to include community and technical college staff. The board initiated a plan for expansion of High Schools That Work and Technology Centers That Work and began development of upgraded career pathways. Members of the West Virginia Board of Education Technology Committee have been asked to participate in a panel during the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference to address Project 24 and how the initiative ensures personalized learning for all students.

In addition, the board's High Quality Educator Committee received a report from Teach for America, including an overview of states currently served by Teach for America, barriers for serving in West Virginia, and potential recommendations for changes. Policy 5000: Procedures for Designated Hiring and Transfer of School Personnel was approved during the June board meeting. An online training module to train Faculty Senates and principals on Policy 5000 was released on July 1.

For more information contact Liza Cordeiro in the WVDE Communication Office at 304-558-2699.

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