CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a true visionary, who said, "Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning."
While Franklin said those words more than two centuries ago, the wisdom in them still applies today. It is a desire for the continual growth and progress of West Virginia's public school students that drives the state Board of Education. We want, as Franklin expressed, for our children to improve, achieve and succeed. This vision for public school students guides our report "From Audit to Action: Students First," our recently released response to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's "Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia's Primary and Secondary Education System."
The board has developed a sincere response to the audit after taking time to collect input from all board members, students, teachers, parents, the West Virginia Department of Education, higher education and several other educational leaders. Ultimately, we are proud of our work. By placing students first, we are setting the stage for meaningful change in our education culture and environment, which has remained stagnant for years.
Public education has reached a pivotal point where change must occur. We do not believe West Virginia students are destined to low performance and failure. Instead, we as a board want to support an optimistic environment where our students, teachers and principals set lofty goals and achieve high expectations. Our work pivots away from why we can't, to focus on how we can achieve.
Highlights featured in the audit response include re-examining seniority to place the most qualified teachers in classrooms, raising the enrollment of secondary students in career and technical programs through a middle school pipeline, supporting whole-school incentives for student achievement, and conducting meaningful conversations about the sustainability of small county school systems.
Another significant board recommendation is to transfer more authority to the local level. While such a move frees counties from some burdensome state oversight, it marks a significant change and is dependent upon the state board and the Legislature working collaboratively to revise state code.
For example, we believe principals should have flexibility with hiring and firing. Current law regarding seniority can make it difficult for principals to hire the best candidate. While seniority is important, other qualities also must be considered. In addition, the West Virginia Teacher Effectiveness Measure should be established to identify West Virginia's own set of teacher effectiveness measures.
The board has begun to release policy bonds that perpetuate building-delivered, teacher-focused, time-bound learning. Already, we are reviewing all state board policies to identify those in need of repeal or revision.