CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Education Alliance commends the West Virginia Board of Education for prioritizing student learning in its "From Audit to Action" response.
While the board's comments are detailed and thoughtful, we believe the response should also include how students will measurably benefit from recommendations and how the Board of Education will prioritize and work with others (agencies, local school boards and school improvement councils, faith communities, the business community, etc.) to improve factors that profoundly impact student learning in West Virginia. Those include teen pregnancy; gaps in students' pre-school readiness associated with income, gender or ethnicity; truancy; children living in dysfunctional home environments; and children living in poverty. Addressing these real challenges will benefit current students and future generations of students.
While the Education Efficiency Audit aimed to "produce the best outcomes for West Virginia students and ensure West Virginia receives the highest return on the educational dollars it spends," the board's response can add the additional dimensions of measurable accountability and advocacy for addressing community and family challenges that impede student learning. The following details The Education Alliance's position:
Measurable student benefits.
The Efficiency Audit addresses student benefits in a general manner, but the board has an opportunity to articulate the improved student outcomes it expects from its recommendations. Currently, the board focuses on what educators will do and receive without identifying for the public and itself the measurable student benefits. The Education Alliance believes the Call to Action must articulate the relationship between the Call to Action responses and measurable benefits to students.
We encourage the board to state how its audit responses will measurably improve or increase the following student outcomes such as test scores on state or national assessments; grade-level retentions; enrollment in rigorous mathematics and science courses; the percentage of third-grade students achieving mastery or above in reading/language arts by the end of third grade and high school completion rates.
Community and family challenges
We believe the Call to Action should acknowledge specific challenges that many West Virginia students endure daily. While these challenges were not mentioned in the Efficiency Audit, they are realities that profoundly affect a student's ability to learn. They are the teen pregnancy rate; student achievement gaps based on income, gender or ethnicity that students bring to their pre-school experience; truancy; children living in dysfunctional home environments; and children living in poverty. Each of these profoundly affects student learning; curriculum; instructional time; teacher effectiveness; the educational quality of a classroom, school or county; and the accessibility, availability, and usefulness of educational technology.
Research shows children growing up in poverty lag behind their middle-class peers or peers from stable homes in terms of vocabulary skills; comprehension skills; social skills; and self-regulation skills even as they begin the schooling process before kindergarten. In West Virginia, 56 percent of West Virginia students receive a free or reduced-priced lunch. One in five West Virginia children is born with significant exposure to drugs or alcohol. Many children live with "toxic stress" that is severe, sustained and not buffered by supportive relationships.