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Schools accomplishing reform goals

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Board of Education is preparing to go to legislators and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin with a report on what the department has accomplished toward the goals they laid out early this year.

During the last legislative session the Legislature approved Tomblin's extensive education reform package and the department was then assigned the task of meeting the goals of that legislation, and of Tomblin's education agenda, which he laid out in his State of the State Address.

Challenges ranged from making changes to professional development for teachers, to beefing up the use of Regional Education Service Agencies to promote efficiency, to making new policies governing school calendars.

In all, the department is answering to 14 challenges outlined by the governor and the Legislature.

The department's report on their progress on all of these fronts is due to legislators and the governor by the end of the year. On Wednesday, the board met to review the report they'll be submitting -- sifting through more than 500 pages of documents together and with department officials.

Overall, they agree that they've made progress, but say they still have work to do.

"I never feel good about stuff that we've accomplished," State Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares said. "That's because we're always in the mode of what's next."

He's pleased, though, with the tone of the conversation. Just getting legislators and education officials to agree on the massive education-related legislative package was a feat, he said, and it was largely a joint effort.

"I think that for the first time maybe ever the board, the department and the governor's office actually were kind of on the same wavelength all the way through it," Phares said. "And I think a lot of the legislators, for their work last legislative session, I think (the governor) has to be pleased with that too."

That, Phares said, might be the most notable thing to come out of the department of education in the last year. But he and the board also pointed to a slew of initiatives as concrete evidence of progress.

Phares is perhaps most proud of the progress they made related to career readiness -- they've doubled the number of advanced career development sites in the state for next year, and plan to continue to grow that number over the next several years.

"This report isn't a list of things that are going to be done," Phares said. "It's a list of things that have been done. Because quite often when you get a report like that it's full of big ideas but no results. This one it's just the opposite."

Professional development and accountability measures -- two complicated but critical initiatives that weave their way through every initiative educators try to move forward on -- are two of the most unfinished areas. That is, officials say, because they're complex, and administrators need more time to make significant progress on those fronts.

"It's just tedious work," Phares said. "And it takes time to do it."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886.


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