Putting teacher excellence first

Julia Elbon and I made a trip to Charleston this week to meet with the staff of First Lady Cathy Justice at the Governor’s Mansion because education is the issue that Ms. Justice has selected as her main focus while her husband is Governor because she was a teacher herself. We invited the First Lady to visit Kump Education Center (KEC) in Elkins this spring or summer.

We hope to work with Cathy Justice’s “Communities in Schools” program in Randolph County knowing that it is working well in some parts of West Virginia. We think this program would be one way to use the Kump House “to serve educational purposes” as directed by the will of Mary G. Kump.

We also plan to talk with Mrs. Justice about a Governors’ Institute for Teachers of Excellence [GIFT of Excellence] to foster teacher professional development and advance research-based curriculum design and assessment in West Virginia public schools. Research shows that the single most important factor for educational success is teacher quality. America faces a growing teacher shortage, and rural West Virginia will have difficulty attracting and retaining excellent teachers unless we offer higher pay and more professional support. Kump Education Center is working to enhance professional development and increase research-based policies and practices.

Kump Education Center has been collaborating with Davis & Elkins College and Randolph County Schools to plan for local Teacher Professional Development Schools, organizing annual Kump Education Research Seminars for aspiring teachers, and providing Education Alliance AmeriCorps members as STREAM academic coaches for local at-risk students in grades 4-8.

The GIFT of Excellence Program can help foster a culture of teacher excellence by increasing attention to research in education. KEC will offer seminars and conferences designed to stimulate innovative curriculum design, cutting edge technology, and responsible assessment. KEC expects to start a National Board Certification Candidate Cadre with Fairmont State University. KEC has plans to organize effective mentor & peer group support for teachers in their first three year of teaching and for veteran teachers with unsatisfactory annual evaluations. KEC could serve as a WV University System satellite to offer graduate level education courses.

The state of West Virginia should reward excellent teachers by giving them more influence over the ways policies are made for public schools. If Gov. Justice would appoint 10 excellent teachers to serve on an Educational Policy Commission to make responsible, research-based recommendations to the WV Legislature, the schools could be guided by professional educators who focus on what children need most to be successful in school and in life.

The GIFT of Excellence Educational Policy Commission would be based at the Kump Education Center.