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Statehouse Beat: College students failing at math

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Had an interesting conversation with Concord University math professor (and tennis coach) Joe Blankenship regarding the legislative interim committee discussions on remedial math classes.

(Earlier in the week, higher education Chancellor Paul Hill described remedial classes as quicksand -- of every 100 students required to take remedial math, only 22 will get out of college with a four-year degree.)

Blankenship took that as a slam on the quality of the remedial classes -- and said the real issue is that West Virginia high schools are graduating thousands of kids who lack basic math skills.

(Not to mention that a declining pool of state high school students is resulting in more and more marginal students getting to fill space in state college classrooms.)

Blankenship said he has a unique perspective, since he used to teach sixth-grade math in Mercer County, and said many of the students he had as sixth-graders are now showing up in the remedial math classes he teaches at Concord.

Blankenship said that, as a little experiment, he gives the same test he used in sixth grade to his remedial classes.

Shockingly, he found that many of his former students who got A's on the test in sixth grade are flunking it in college. He said many students don't take math after seventh grade, and their math skills atrophy by the time they get to college.

The bottom line, he said, is that students are coming out of West Virginia high schools woefully unprepared for college-level coursework -- and that it's unrealistic to expect them to learn in a one-semester remedial class what they should have been taught in four years of high school.

"Students are worse now than they were 10 to 15 years ago," he said.

Considering that Concord is probably in the middle-tier of state colleges academically, Blankenship said he shutters to think about the caliber of students in the lower-tier schools.

He recalled that one of Hill's predecessors called remedial classes "purgatory" -- and said it's easier to treat remedial classes as the fall guy, rather than have the political will to address the real problems with public schools.

To that end, the state's "open admissions" standard for in-state students does many a great disservice, leaving them as ex-students saddled with student loans and debts, with no diploma or marketable skills to show for it.

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More evidence that John Raese's AJG Corp. is a front for West Virginia Radio Corp. to allow Raese to acquire rival stations WCLG AM and FM in Morgantown without violating Federal Communications Commission market ownership limits:

According to records in the state auditor's office, when Pierpont Community and Technical College wanted to run radio spots last month promoting its express registration program, it bought airtime on West Virginia Radio station WVAQ in Morgantown and on Agnes Jane Greer Corp. station WFBY in Weston.

On both purchase orders, the account executive is both companies is Brett Hunt, and the contact person is Holly Fluharty, accounts payable supervisor for both.

The Transfer of Ownership application filed with the FCC for WCLG notes that AJG has two stockholders, each with a 50 percent ownership interest: The two are descendents' trusts for the children of John Raese and the children of David A. Raese.

Remarkably, the application states, "With consummation of the proposed acquisition of stations WCLG and WCGL-FM [sic], the assignee still would be in compliance with the commission's multiple ownership rule."

(In the Morgantown-Clarksburg market, the ownership limit is six stations, with no more than four of the same service (AM or FM). WVRC/AJG already has 5 FMs in the market.)

Meanwhile, the terms of Raese's $1.8 million contract to buy WCLG requires station owner Linda Bowers (widow of longtime station owner/manger Gary Bowers) to take one final action as WCLG owner: "All employees ... will be terminated by the seller on the commencement date."

The contract also states, "Nothing in this agreement shall obligate buyer to hire any such employees" (who won't be needed as WCLG simulcasts other WVRC/AJG programming).

The contract, dated Aug. 9 but agreed to some 10 days earlier, also bars WCLG from entering into any contracts or agreements during the period pending FCC approval of the transfer of ownership -- effectively preventing WCLG from negotiating with IMG College to be the Morgantown flagship for WVU game broadcasts.

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Finally, lobbyist Paul Hardesty confirms that WVU Hospitals will not be renewing his contract when it expires at the end of the year.

Hardesty said he was advised that the hospital corporation is making a lot of spending cuts, and had decided to go back to having just one lobbyist at the statehouse (Thom Stevens).

Hardesty, who lives in Logan, said he has heard the speculation that the change was made because the residence of the House Finance chairman changed from Mingo County (Harry Keith White) to Braxton County (Brent Boggs), but doesn't believe that to be the case.

Hardesty won't be going hungry, though. He still has about 30 clients, and if Marc Harman ever retires, will probably have an entire page in the lobbyists directory to himself.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

 


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