CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I've been reading with some bemusement the text of the governor's education "reform" legislation and the flurry of media attention that accompanied its passage.
House Republican objections that the original legislation failed to address the number of employees in the Department of Education when measured against the number of state P-12 students -- were legitimate. Protesters were right to discern that shifting some of those resources and personnel to the Regional Educational Service Agencies is a thinly disguised shell game. For the Board of Education president to argue that it's necessary to hire yet another employee to act as a liaison between the board and the department (which is why they hire a superintendent), when the already overstaffed department surely has a sufficient number of employees to carry out the board's agenda, adds insult to injury.
But it is the subject of local control that really caught my attention. A recent Gazette story quoted the governor as saying, "Public education will be delivered locally, not by Charleston," and indeed the legislation does "provide for local control of the school calendar." As long as the "state board or state superintendent approves" said calendar.
The legislation also "holds local school districts accountable for the student outcomes the state values," as opposed to those the local district may value. It makes clear that these outcomes "should align with national and international standards such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the ACT, the SAT and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)."
If a local district happens to value testing students to within an inch of their lives, they've little to which to object in that mandate. If local districts were hoping, on the other hand, to have some measure of flexibility in how many students are tested and how often, they will be deeply disappointed.
Furthermore, if those four tests were the only standardized measures to which students must submit, one could perhaps overlook the lost class time. But they are not.
One of my doctoral students, who is an assistant principal in West Virginia, told me that nearly 90 of the 180 instructional days in his county are given over to standardized testing. Not every student every day; but some student somewhere in the county is being tested roughly every other day. I thought that an astonishing number, so I checked the state department's Office of Assessment and Accountability's website.
He wasn't exaggerating. West Virginia students sit for the following standardized tests: