Local teacher is no fan of Tomblin’s education bill


On March 13 there was an editorial that supported Governor Tomblin’s education bill. I am greatly disappointed in the comments made in that editorial.

I have been a teacher in West Virginia for over 20 years and believe that the system needs to change. However the system needs to change from the top up and that is what the audit reflected also. I have responses below for each paragraph.

What Mountain State residents talking with their legislators must accept is that for all the good qualities on display at some schools, the state’s public education system is a wreck. Our children’s performance on standardized tests ranks behind almost every other state. About one-fourth of students who enter school do not graduate. Of those students who do graduate, around one-third require remediation if they go to college.

And this is all the teacher’s fault? Does poor parenting or unenforced laws about compulsory school attendance share in this formula? I recently gave a homework assignment to a class of 20 students and told them I was taking a grade on it. Five students returned the assignment, and what was the assignment? It was a permission slip so that students, who are minors, had permission to submit work for an art competition!

Those students who do not graduate generally have some type of attendance issue. How is that the teacher’s fault that the student is not present in class? I send a letter to parents when a student has missed five days of my class. Usually I get no response from parents.

If one-third need remediation for college level classes, maybe they should have been told that at an earlier age. I frequently tell students, “If you are going to college and don’t want to pay for classes that won’t count toward your major you need to improve your math and English skills.” Many students do not take college prep courses but say they are going to college. They take such classes as teacher assistant, tutoring, office assistant during their senior year and, therefore, go to college unprepared. Somehow that becomes the teacher’s fault that they are unprepared.

The sad truth is that the stereotype of uneducated “hillbillies” has some basis in fact. We can resent that all we want, but defensiveness will not do our children any good.

I have had an opportunity to visit schools in other states. I have found that those students were no different, or “smarter,” than our students here. They just do a better job of teaching to the test than we do.

Yes, there are sections of the governor’s bill we wish could be altered. Some changes already have been made. But a concerted effort is under way to weaken some of the most critical proposals in the bill. There is a very real possibility that the bill could be gutted before it reaches Tomblin’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill needs to be gutted. Start at the top. The cap is removed for the salary of the state superintendent, but more pressure/responsibility/total success of student achievement is placed on the backs of teachers in the state. There is nothing in this bill that addresses poor performance of principals, superintendents, county boards, state department individuals, and/or parents who have as much to do with a kid’s education as we do.

So let us be clear: One of the most important opportunities for education reform in years, perhaps even decades, is upon us. If we throw it away, shame on us.

Yes, shame on you for demanding more from a group of professionals who are ranked 50th in the nation in pay, but you want them to do more than they are already doing.

Do you know what we do? We work our eight-hour teaching day, do fundraisers, work some evenings and or weekends doing lesson plans, grading papers or preparing lessons. We take students on field trips on weekends and summers where we are responsible for them 24 hours a day with no pay. We go in before school starts to prepare our rooms and go in after school is out to finalize everything, etc. Teachers are learning new technology on their own time and attending conferences that they do not get paid for and/or is out of their school day.

Shame on us for working our butts off for the lowest pay in the nation. We should just work our eight hours and let the kids suffer because that seems to be what is important here. We get paid for two to three snow days that are not able to be made up, and that is just terrible that we are getting paid for days we don’t work. Did I mention that many of us do go to school during those snow days to do school work or do other work at home?

Included in Tomblin’s proposal is that more attention is given to early childhood education, ensuring that students can read adequately before they leave third grade, emphasizing training in a career or vocation, focusing on the critical middle school years, and testing 11th grade students to ensure they are ready for college.

So the issue is we are spending too much money on education. The cost of adding early childhood education to the system is a cost of approximately $10,000 per child. What is read adequately by third grade – first, second, third grade level? How will this be measured? What about a student that has some type of disability? Additional emphasis on career and vocational and focusing on middle school are good concepts, but are those things clearly defined? An 11th grade test to ensure students are ready for college is a good concept, but who takes it? All students whether they have had college prep courses? Only those that have had college prep? Who decides? How do we measure if a student is ready for the work force?

There is much, much more in the bill to improve schools in ways great and small. Again, the bill is not perfect. But it is a start, and West Virginians need to insist our legislators not bow to pressure and maintain the status quo.

Yes, please do not bow to the opinion of teachers who have been in the system for 20 plus years. We are lazy, no account individuals who have done little work to help educate the youth of our state. That is the attitude I have after reading and hearing the support from others for this bill. It is all the teacher’s fault yet again!

Denise Stalnaker