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Teachers union leader, House speaker question school testing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A West Virginia teachers union leader and the House of Delegates speaker said Monday that students' aren't being educated as well as they should be because they're forced to take more and more tests.

Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, held a news conference in the House of Delegates conference room at the Capitol to announce an effort "to reclaim the promise of public education."

Education, Campbell said, is the "means by which all children can achieve their dream. Our collective responsibility is to give every child the opportunity to work in West Virginia."

Campbell believes "promoting smaller class sizes at all levels" will help students.

"Arts, music and physical education are also necessary to educations students," Campbell said. "The current fixation on testing is not working." She said the overemphasis on testing was sparked by the federal No Child Left Behind legislator backed by President George W. Bush in 2001.

Since 2003, the state has used the West Virginia Education Standards Test, often called the WESTEST, to evaluate students, and their teachers, from the third through 11th grades.

House of Delegates Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said at the Monday news conference that he supported Campbell's efforts.

"It is important that we reclaim the promise of education. As time has gone on, we have put more burdens on our teachers to test kids, rather than to educate them.

"Assessments are best used to guide instruction, not punish the system," Campbell said.

Miley said the upcoming Legislature should focus on three things:

* Offering support for families who are raising children at home. "For the past 25 years, we have seen an erosion of that."

* Working with educators "to make sure these kids are taught in a meaningful way, not [focusing] on testing."

Miley said many other countries, such as Finland, have higher-ranking education systems that we do today. "Finland does little to train kids for tests."

* Continuing "to hire and retain teachers with competitive [economic] packets."

"We can no longer ignore the effect poverty has on the education of our children. Early literacy programs and wrap-around services in our schools will provide a substantial support system for parents and students to address their social, emotional and health needs," Campbell said.

Campbell also urged everyone to visit their local schools and ask how they might do something to help their students.

No specific pieces of legislation were proposed at the news conference.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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