It is distressing enough that a national school quality program gives West Virginia low marks for how it prepares and manages teachers. Worse is that little progress has been made during the past two years.
Our state ranks 41st in the nation in rankings released by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The letter grade assigned us is D-plus, the same as in 2009.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and state legislators are taking limited steps to improve public schools. More action is expected later this year, as a result of a comprehensive "audit" of education in West Virginia.
Some legislators are expressing increasing frustration at the slow pace of school reform. They are right to worry; every year that passes without major progress represents a high school graduating class of thousands of young Mountain State residents who could have been prepared better for life in the 21st century.
Evaluations by the NCTQ are in five categories: delivering well-prepared teachers, expanding the teaching pool, identifying effective teachers, retaining effective teachers and exiting ineffective teachers.
Specific criteria are used to rate the states and recommendations for improvements are made.
Some of the council's suggestions would be relatively easy to implement. For example, under "delivering well-prepared teachers," the council notes that while teacher preparation programs are required to teach the science of reading, education students are not required to pass tests to gauge their knowledge of the subject. It should not be difficult for the state Department of Education to devise such a test.
In other areas - especially identifying and retaining effective teachers - the task is much more demanding.
It is not one from which state - and local - officials should shrink, however. Better schools are an absolute necessity for West Virginia. Concrete, effective steps to provide them must be taken.