A state audit concluded that "one universal comment concerning RESAs is that they must work to 'follow the money' to pursue grants for their survival, rather than base services on an assessment of the most critical needs of districts in the region."
The Education Audit lists "a plethora of entities and organizations in (professional development) policymaking, planning and delivery in the state."
As a consequence, education officials say they "do not know who is in charge of professional development in West Virginia," and teachers often admit "having little confidence in the professional development opportunities that are available," the audit says.
While the audit recommends that at least 51 percent of a teacher's evaluation be based on student advancement, H.B. 4236 enacted by the 2012 Legislature allows only 15 percent.
In contrast, 80 percent of a teacher's evaluation is to be based on his or her ability to perform critical elements of the professional teaching standards, among them the teacher's knowledge of students' gender and the organization of space and materials in a safe, highly efficient and well-designed learning environment.
The Legislature is fascinated with visions, setting goals and objectives, and laying out strategies. Thus, as part of its vision for the year 2020, the Legislature, in a moment of fantasy, said the first goal would be that student academic achievements will exceed national and international averages.
The Legislature also established performance objectives for high school graduation rates by 2020 (90 percent of ninth-graders) and college-going rates by the end of 2012, mandating that the gap between the county with the lowest college-going rate and the state average will decrease by 50 percent from what it was in mid-2008.
(The Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability would perform a valuable service by informing the public whether the state met the 2012 objective.)
Before any more school legislation is acted upon, the existing clutter in hundreds of pages of existing legislation should be swept into the trash bin.
McElwee is a Charleston lawyer and school reform advocate.