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Herbert Hoover has turned itself around

The state Department of Education recognized only one school in Kanawha County as a School of Excellence this year: Herbert Hoover High School in Clendenin.

The honor is based on a school's curriculum, innovation, learning environment, leadership, teaching and student achievement.

Principal Mike Kelley and Herbert Hoover's faculty have turned Herbert Hoover around.

"We were in a hole and didn't know how to get out of it," Kelli Plutro, an English teacher at Hoover for more than a decade, told the Daily Mail's Shay Maunz.

So they invented their own solutions.

In 2009, only 30 percent of Hoover students tested proficient in reading. Last year, 55 percent achieved proficiency in reading.

To sharpen writing skills - students tested low on writing assessments - teachers assigned students to write a one-sentence exercise in each class period.

Students also used the state's computer program to improve their writing skills.

An "enrichment program" gave students a 23-minute period each day to work on their problem areas.

The results show. In 2008, only 59 percent of Hoover students took college entrance tests. In 2012, nearly 63 percent did.

Perhaps most remarkable of all is this statement from science teacher Heather Lyons.

"We made being smart cool again," she said. "They're excited to find out how well they did. They get really excited about being smart."

These solutions did not come from the top down. Teachers came up with them.

"Sometimes when you get these mandates from somewhere else, you don't have the kind of buy-in that you need from teachers and students," Kelley said. "But when the plan was developed by the school by the people who are going to implement it, that's not a problem at all."

Congratulations to Herbert Hoover's staff for making that case in a measurable way. What has happened is no small achievement.

Hoover's success can be repeated elsewhere in West Virginia, where school spending is high and academic achievement is low.

Instead of telling teachers what they must do, lawmakers, school boards and other school officials should listen to principals and teachers and let them show what they can do.

Being smart should be cool all over the state.


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