Education: Teacher development should be considered

In what appears to be an effort to do something good for West Virginia teachers, school administrators AND parents, the House of Delegates Education Committee passed a bill last week that would fix the school year in all counties to between Sept. 1 and May 31. It would also reduce the required number of instructional days to 170.

While it appears to be a step away from talk of year-round schooling, House Bill 2433, according to Delegate Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, is less about a number of days than about “the quality of instruction among educators.”

That, of course, depends a great deal on how individual teachers and school systems would choose to use the extra time this bill would give. With the opening of the door to creativity, flexibility and new ideas, there is more responsibility on the part of teachers and schools. In addition to having more time to prepare for the opening and closing of the school year, teachers would be able to include time for record keeping, collaboration, and post-secondary education outreach.

It is good to give parents the stability of knowing each year exactly when to expect school to begin and end. It is good to prompt counties to develop new methods of instruction for days schools have to be closed. Change can prompt improvement.

But lawmakers may be missing an opportunity here. An amendment may be needed to require at least some of the time gained in the summer for sustained professional development programs for teachers.

Most teachers and administrators can likely already tell how they would fill an extra ten days with work that improves them and the educational experience they can give to students. But lawmaker should include language in HB 2433 that focuses on continuing education programs, school improvement, finding proven teaching strategies, conducting action research, and exploring new ideas.

A reduction in the required number of instructional days does not necessarily mean a reduction in the quality of education our students receive. And, done right, HB 2433 can make sure that does not happen — but lawmakers owe it to students to make sure THEY take a little extra time to get this one right.