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A consensus begins on school reform

No one is happy with the public school system in West Virginia. Taxpayers give a larger portion of their meager incomes to education than residents of all but a handful of states, but our schools are near the bottom in academic achievement.

Change is coming.

On Monday, the governor, the president of the state school board, the superintendent of Kanawha County schools and West Side community leader Matthew Watts -in separate speeches and interviews - spoke in favor of reforms.

"We have hard-working teachers," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said at his inauguration.

"Per capita, our education funding ranks among the nation's best. But on our most important metric - student achievement - we're falling behind. It doesn't need to be this way, and it must stop."

Change must begin somewhere, and a consensus seems to be emerging that a year-round school schedule is the place to start. A special audit of education made more than 100 recommendations. The state school board has made year-round school its priority.

The state would not impose this on county school systems, but make it easier to adopt.

That's an interesting approach that in itself is a reform. Instead of a one-size-fits-all mandate, the state would simply ask counties to consider the change.

Kanawha County officials not only have considered it, but are considering expanding it as part of a program to improve five West Side schools.

Superintendent Ron Duerring is working with the Rev. Watts and others on a plan to raise academic achievement. In addition to year-round schooling, the ideas include tougher sanctions on student tardiness and hiring teachers without regard to seniority.

"We want the West Side itself to be ground zero for education reform," Watts told the Daily Mail's Dave Boucher.

That is a desire that should be shared by every leader in every community in this great state.

Education reform must begin somewhere.

Year-round school schedules lessen the learning loss many students experience during the summer, while allowing for tutoring during break times.

Such a schedule could provide opportunities for all children, and that, after all, is what schools are supposed to be doing.



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