Officials with the state Department of Education and state school board talked Tuesday with state senators about changes they're making to improve schools.
State Superintendent Jim Phares and Board President Wade Linger spoke Tuesday with the Senate Education Committee about directives received from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
In his State of the State address last week, Tomblin called on the department and board to improve reading instruction in the primary grades; define the purpose of Regional Education Service Agencies; establish a commission to study leadership organization in small school systems, increase technology in the curriculum, foster better bonds between public schools and community colleges, and increase standards for career and technical education.
Those initiatives are well under way, Phares and Linger said.
Many can be handled without any changes in code. The department already has begun restructuring the RESAs, and it is studying how students can bring their own technology into the classroom, he said.
Phares said the department is looking to embed "academic credit" into career and technical classes. He said students who take those classes need to learn math or English skills to succeed and should be recognized for learning those lessons.
Linger and Phares also want to focus on truancy, teacher evaluations and auditing school performance.
The department continues to monitor truancy rates and work with the judicial system to find ways to keep students in school, Phares said.
The teacher evaluation pilot program is going well, Linger said. The committee working to define the traits of an effective teacher continues its work, he said.
It will take a code change to give the board's Office of Education Performance Audits more responsibility, Linger said. The office conducts audits of troubled schools; Linger wants it to be able to go into schools sooner to nip small problems in the bud.
The report was an update, and no action was required. The committee did create a subcommittee to look at School Safety Access Funds. Created in 2008, the funds helped pay for safety upgrades. Committee Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said the committee would look at how the money was spent and hold public hearings so people could discuss their school safety concerns.
Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, will lead the subcommittee.