Last place just not good enough

West Virginians have become used to their state coming in last on rankings for just about everything imaginable. But the news last week that the state’s high school seniors had finished last in reading and tied for last in math when compared to their peers simply cannot continue to be tolerated.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, in its release of the nation’s report card, ranked West Virginia at the bottom for reading with a score of 280. The average score for public schools across the nation was 287.

Only 28 percent of the state’s high school seniors performed at or above NAEP’s proficient level for reading. When it came to meeting NAEP’s basic reading level, 70 percent hit the mark.

The reading score increased one point from the last NAEP?assessment for West Virginia’s seniors in 2009.

In math, the state’s seniors finished tied for last with Tennessee at 145 points. The national average was 152.

West Virginia’s math score was four points higher than in 2009.

Only 14 percent of 12th graders scored at or above NAEP’s proficient level in math. Fifty-five percent of students performed at or above the basic level.

Again, these are scores for high school seniors, many of whom will be leaving home this summer to attend college. How can they hope to compete in today’s global marketplace if only 14 percent of them are proficient in math and 28 percent in reading?

State Superintendent of Schools James Phares offered little to address the poor scores.

“We are optimistic about the statistically significant increase in math but we remain concerned that we are trailing the nation,” he said.

The fact is, if we’re trailing the nation, then we’re falling far behind other parts of the world. West Virginians need to expect more from students, parents, teachers and administrators, and not just be content with a “statistically significant” increase in math.

For years, we’ve heard time and again about how the state’s education system needs to be improved. For the most part, those words have proven to be lip service.

The end result is where we find ourselves today, at the bottom of just about every educational ranking available.

That can’t continue.