The recent article in the Hampshire Review about Hampshire county schools regarding their low academic position relative to other schools in the state needs to be clarified. There are several ways to look at this. One is to see it as a percentile which places us thenat the bottom 20% level. If we were in a class ranking of 100 students, we would be below 80% of our classmates. If the nuns at the Catholic school I attended, as a the fourth grader were giving Hampshire schools a grade, it would be a D relative to other schools in West Virginia.
Here is a recent chart on math and science scores on a state by state basis.
Now remember, here in Hampshire county we are one of the lowest scoring counties in the state. Couple this with the fact we are one of the lowest scoring states in the country and one of the lowest scoring countries in the developed world and you might begin to wonder what is going on. How far to the bottom? That means we have some of the worst schools in the country, forgive me, I mean world!
I keep thinking of the old limbo song, HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? It sounds to me that we need a major housecleaning to correct this problem. I hate to repeat myself but I am going to say it again! It all starts in the classroom with the teacher! Class-time-on-task is essential to learning. You should not interrupt class on a regular basis for anything unless it is extremely important. We need to reevaluate where we are, where we are going and where we have been academically. Our students go to school to learn to love learning and develop basic skills to survive in the workplace which is for all intent and purpose a world workforce. In fact, many American companies are hiring students from other countries because they do not feel our students have the training, thinking skills or work ethic they need! I was told by a prison educational specialist that some companies would rather hire a GED (General education Degree) student than a high school graduate because there was some assurance that they know basic skills. Our kids do not go to school to watch or play ballgames, have club meetings or anything else that often interferes with the learning processes. Instruction time is a sacred, a special time that belongs to the teacher, no one else! For the last 35 years I have watched the rights of teachers being eroded by bureaucrats, politicians, administrators and parents and who often have little or no training in the field of education, but who wants a piece of the action. In what amount to a slow and methodical diminishment of the rights of the teaching profession, we have seen a devastating erosion of our public education system. As it stands now, many of our public schools are academically in ruins with no sign of any changes in the near future!
While I am up here on the soap box, I want to bring one more point to this conversation. TESTING! I have said it before and will say it again and again until I die or someone actually listens! There is no merit in testing kids to the point that where we are today. Our kids are not a huge science experiment for which we are trying to collect as much data as humanly possible; they are our children! I have talked to teachers who claim that some students spend as much as one day out of five testing! This is insane! Do the math; there are 36 weeks in a school year. If a child spends one day a week testing, that is 36 days a year which is at least five weeks of school. These are some of the same people who want year-round school calendar! So, by dropping our testing down to two or three days a year, we can add almost five weeks of instructional time to the year!
How long do we have to fix this? How far down in the world ranking do we have to fall before we decide that educating is JOB ONE! This is not about paying our teachers more money but empowering them to teach the children, allowing people who are trained to teach,the authority to do their jobs. I have known many teachers in my life so I am convinced that with proper supervision and guidance, most of them can be good teachers, if not great ones. Again, this means: let teachers do their job, and if they are not, develop a process to retrain them or remove them! We are becoming a third world country due to the poor education a majority of our schools provide! I for one have enjoyed our past status as number one but I fear our reign is ending.