Neither of these efforts take place at school. They don't have anything to do with the length of the school year, the number of computers in the classroom or what kind of degree teachers have. But they affect student and school performance mightily.
For the past year, we've heard a lot of talk about insisting that schools do better, test scores rise and more students graduate, all great goals. Most of the discussion has been about what's going to happen during school hours, with little regard to the condition of children as they arrive at the door.
No doubt there are some great improvements to make at school. But won't they be clearer and more effective when a greater majority of students arrive at school nourished, both in body and mind, from birth, ready to learn?
No change at school will have as much effect, or even any effect at all, if the root of the problem is not addressed -- that more than 25 percent of West Virginia children live in poverty. A still greater percentage live close enough to the official poverty line to face the same difficulties. Still more deal with nutrition, violence and drug problems at home.
Who doesn't want better outcomes in education?
The question is who is really serious about improving conditions for children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade? They wash out of high school and then have a higher likelihood of unemployment, unwanted pregnancy and even jail, all of which perpetuates the cycle for another generation. But their problems start way back at birth, or sooner.
We should know the answer in a few weeks. If Gov. Tomblin and lawmakers support and fund efforts that mitigate the effects of poverty, that help parents and children grow up healthy, mature and ready for school, then we'll know they are serious about seeing kids do better in school.
If they spend 60 days trying to prove who is more concerned or tougher or enamored with the trendiest fad, then we'll know they're interested only in a lot of sound and fury.Miller, the Gazette's editorial page editor, can be reached at d...@wvgazette.com.