CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Student achievement, the school calendar and teacher hiring and development are the key topics of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s sprawling bid to overhaul West Virginia’s public education system, introduced Monday in the state Senate and House of Delegates.
With the Senate Education Committee beginning its review of the 179-page bill on Tuesday, groups representing teachers, school workers and administrators were largely critical of its provisions. Supporters include the state Chamber of Commerce.
“To us, this looks like a bill that all West Virginians should embrace,” Chamber President Steve Roberts said. “We think the governor’s bill is a huge leap in the direction of student-centered learning, putting student needs first.”
Public schools statewide would begin offering full-day early education to 4-year-olds by the 2016-2017 school year under the bill, in a quest to boost reading levels by grade three. It also requires standards by the 2014-2015 year for measuring whether high school juniors are ready either for college or a vocational-technical career. Schools would then offer remedial courses to students identified through testing during their senior years.
The teachers’ unions praised the early childhood learning initiative, but Judy Hale, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, singled out language allowing for new end-of-coursework testing for the college and career readiness standard.
The 55 county school systems would keep basic oversight of their school calendars, while still aiming to provide at least 180 days of instruction. As most counties chronically miss that target, Monday’s bill removes limits on the 12 days set aside for such purposes as professional development, teacher-parent conferences, and opening and closing schools. It would allow for year-round calendars, currently followed by a handful of public schools.