Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Education in WV: What we really need to do


What an eye-opener! Today’s Leadership Kanawha Valley session started at the Kanawha County School Board. We heard from Dr. Duerring, and several principals from various middle and high schools located around the Kanawha County school district. Since I posted yesterday about the possibility of having a public awareness campaign for parents, this was the perfect opportunity to ask some questions. And I must admit I should have researched this issue more before writing yesterday’s post.

Fact: Kanawha County Schools currently educates 600 homeless students. Shocked yet? Keep reading... South Charleston High School Principal Michael Arbogast told us a story about how he was coming out of the school’s weight room one evening around 4:30pm and there was a group of students hanging out on campus. About fifteen minutes later, only one girl was still remaining. He asked her why she wasn’t home yet, had she missed the bus? She replied that school was the only place she felt safe. Her mother was addicted to meth, and continually had different men over who made the girl feel uncomfortable. When her mother was unable to pick her up from school, she called her uncle, who would pick her up when he got off work around 5pm.

Stonewall Jackson is a Title 1 School, meaning it has a poverty level at or above 75% (so 75% or more of students receive free lunch). Because of their Title 1 status, they’ve received eight more teachers, as well as technology funding. Stonewall has held two parent-student events where parents can come in and use Smartboards and other technologies with their students. Both events were extremely successful according to the principal. Now there’s a parent education effort more schools should adopt.

Duerring said that for all the progress Kanawha County has made, there were two major challenges: decreasing the drop-out rate, and teacher recruitment. After listening to today’s discussion, I realized I spoke too soon regarding putting a public awareness campaign for parents before recruitment. The way schools are placing more responsibility on students today, (as compared to when I was enrolled in the KCS school system), places the responsibility of earning a quality education more so on the student. With the ever-developing and transforming educational technology, it’s probably hard for some parents to keep up. For example, Arbogast said that the students were teaching their teachers how to use Smartboards. So while I feel it’s highly valuable to hold parent-student events at every school, recruitment is where we should really be focusing the majority of our efforts. That being said, I’m excited that Rainmaker is working with Kanawha County Schools on new teacher recruitment materials, as well as adding new virtual media vehicles to the mix.

While filling out my Leadership WV application, one question asked, “In your opinion, what significant changes must be made in West Virginia now in order to improve the economy and lifestyle of the state in the future?” Immediately now-Senator Bob Beach tweet came into my mind about a teacher recruitment meeting. And while teacher recruitment is necessary, it isn’t, in my opinion, the first step West Virginia should make in attempting to strengthen our education system.

We have a drop out rate that’s all together too high, truancy is an issue, and kids are leaving high school and college to get jobs so they can help their families make ends meet. The importance of education doesn’t start with the child sitting in class, it starts at home. If parents do not value education, neither will their children. Therefore developing a public awareness campaign that educates parents on the importance of their child’s education is mission-critical in my opinion. It’s one thing to have a great teacher who inspires a student to learn, but if that student leaves home to go to a part-time job until midnight, they obviously aren’t going to get their homework done.

Recently, Riverside High School in Belle, West Virginia, was on an MTV show. To what did my wondering eyes appear, but sleeping kids, and the fact that literally no student seemed to care about their education. High school is about gossip, but it’s not all about gossip and social status, (to prove my point, this fashion-obsessed girl fell in love with honors chemistry). One teacher being interviewed discussed how students at Riverside often came to school sleepy and exhausted after being up all night working to help their families or taking care of a child. How can anyone be ready to learn if they’ve been working all evening, attempted to finish homework so they could pass with a D, and go to bed at 2am only to wake up at 5:30am to catch the bus?

Before we discuss recruitment, let’s take a step back and put educating parents first. Then, after a public awareness campaign is developed and launched, let’s talk about recruitment.


  1. Graduation Rate & Qualified Teachers are a huge concern for whole P-20 system. Both lead to a cultural shift that will affect not just the student and parents, but all educational stakeholders. We need solid teachers to help with the overall education of being human.

  2. As a parent, I think you nailed it the first time. Parents and teachers need to learn to work together. Until that and many other problems are solved, retention will remain a problem. Many of the problems teachers and students face are part of a viscous cycle that has gone unaddressed for far too long and now we are in a downward spiral. You and I both know that no marketing campaign in the world will sell you product if it's broke when you buy it.

  3. There's no excuse for teachers not knowing how to use the technology they need to teach kids. If they don't know it they need to be trained, and if they won't they should be let go. It's a failure of an already broken system.

    Even a perfect school will have problems though if the parents aren't involved in their kids lives, like the poor girl with the meth-addict mother.

  4. I've seen your blog before and disagree ... frequently. But, in this case, you touched on some truth. Parents need to get their act together and start being parents. Far too often, they pawn off their responsibilities and duty to the education system.