Give more leeway to local teachers
During the past few decades, state and federal governments have tightened their control over public schools. Very little in the way of meaningful education reform can be done without clearing it in Charleston or Washington.
Predictably — and rightly — that has prompted many West Virginians to demand much more control over our schools be given to local boards of education, answerable to local residents.
Though the outlook in Washington remains uncertain, giant steps to loosen the state leash on educators have been taken in Charleston.
But let us not go too far.
Some steps taken by the state Board of Education and West Virginia legislators will be applauded by many educators. Among them are doing away with the Smarter Balanced standardized test, dropping the A-F grading system for schools and eliminating the Office of Education Performance Audits.
We don’t have to use the rhetorical question technique — what do these things have in common? — to point out what is going on. All three of the initiatives mentioned above are techniques used by the state to gauge the effectiveness of public schools. The A-F grading system gave West Virginians a mountain of information about individual aspects of performance.
There were enormous flaws in the standardized test and the A-F system. And some educators complained the auditing office was unfair.
But as matters stand, there is a gaping hole in how we in the Mountain State hold public schools accountable.
In each of the 55 counties, local school officials will be happy to tell us how they are doing. Go ahead and mark 55 A’s down on that report card.
But come on, now. To paraphrase a critic of glowing evaluations of students and schools a few years ago, we can’t all be above average.
That is the danger in vesting too much control over schools in local officials. Someone at the state level needs to serve a watchdog function to keep them honest.
A new state school superintendent, Steve Paine, was hired by the West Virginia Board of Education on Thursday. Among his top-priority tasks should be developing a new accountability system.
By all means, let us give local educators more leeway in how they educate our children. Let us also hold them accountable for producing results