Guest Post: Efforts at innovation in West Virginia are having trouble breaking through

June 25, 2010 •

Editor’s note: Each Friday we feature guest bloggers that are involved in rethinking what is possible with schooling and the education system.

This is a post by guest contributor Tim McClung, a member of West Virginians for Education Reform.

What is Possible in Public Education?

In West Virginia, I don’t know the answer to that question. It is not possible to spend any more money, regulation and legislation that we have tried has proven to be ineffective as a change agent, teacher associations still view educators as employees of the district instead of professionals. The die is cast.

West Virginians for Education Reform has been pretty vocal in 2010 trying to get a charter school bill passed but there is not enough political or teacher support to make that happen. The Race to the Top funding carrot did not create fervor for reform proposals to disrupt the status quo. Politics and disruption do not mix. The haymakers inside the system really keep to themselves. I speculate that every school in the state wants to do better (not different) and suffers through policies and procedures as a matter of due course.

At the same time, there have been some lively discussions this year about student motivation, the profession of teaching, school equity, communities—and ideas and proposals from task forces, workshops, conferences and legislative committees.

Most of the fascinating and remarkably different ideas have come from students and younger parents and teachers. But at the end of the day, urgency is not called for.

For that matter, with just over 280,000 students in this state, 1 out of every 2 living in poverty, 4 out of every 10 dropping out, and most of the rest not completing secondary education, without innovation our state’s public education system it is poised to soon go the way of GM. That may be when we can talk about what is possible.