Finding a breakthrough in W.Va.’s public education

The following editorial appeared in The Elkins (West Virginia) Inter-Mountain on Oct. 6:

Fewer than half the students in West Virginia public schools can demonstrate grade-level proficiency in mathematics, according to the state’s own yardstick. The numbers are slightly worse for science.

Eight schools throughout the state are part of a very small group of sites in a $1 million experiment aimed at changing that.

Funded by The Education Alliance, the project is intended to improve how STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) are taught in public schools. Just eight schools throughout the state were selected to participate.

Schools in the program will have three years to “raise the bar in STEM education and produce a model for statewide replication,” explained Education Alliance President and CEO Amelia Courts.

Here’s hoping they succeed. But that will happen only if teachers at the schools are permitted to educate outside the very restrictive box in which state and federal governments have placed them.

Even The Education Alliance has placed boundaries on how teachers can attack the problem. In a news release, the organization noted participating schools “will follow key design principles …”

Why? Why not give educators the freedom to, as so many often plead, “to just teach?”

Obviously, there need to be some limits on how the project is pursued. None of the thousands of parents of students who will be involved wants their child to be used as a “guinea pig.”

But why can’t educators in the STEM project be told to do what they think is best for students – with the realization that frequent evaluations will prevent ongoing failures?

Scientists understand preconceived notions about their work can be their worst enemies. Keeping experiments within rigidly defined boundaries can prevent breakthroughs.

In public education, West Virginians need a breakthrough.


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