Time to fix our schools

The result of the shift from parental control and local autonomy to centralized government control is evident in school proficiency data. In the Program for International Student Assessment testing of 15-year-olds in 2012, American students ranked slightly below average among 65 nations in science, math and reading. Meanwhile, in 2014, the Nation’s Report Card ranked West Virginia dead last in student achievement.

So, if West Virginia ranks lowest of 50 in a mediocre national school system, where do our students stand on the global scale. Could Pakistani 15-year-olds outscore us? Bolivian?

Where do Wood County’s students figure into the mix? Based on achievement test scores, Wood County ranks 19th among the 55 counties in the state. In combined WESTEST scores from last year, just one of our elementary schools ranked in the top 60 statewide. Only one middle school made the top 70, while but one of our high schools ranked in the top 50. What do these measurements mean in the global arena? Can our high school graduates compete for SAT/ACT scores, college and university entrance exams, jobs and careers? Can our kids achieve their dreams?

It is clear that the majority of our local schools are in need of improvement and it is up to the good people of Wood County to respond. Decades of research have shown that the single most important element in student achievement and quality schools is parental involvement.

Wood County Schools needs to draw parents into advisory groups with students, teachers and building administration to address impediments to learning, develop solutions and communicate their findings on a regular basis with a willing Board of Education and a cooperative county administration. There are other measures to be taken as well, but parent collaboration with students and school personnel would be a powerful beginning.

Several years ago I asked my students to explain, in writing, how America became a great nation. My favorite response was the last four words of a paragraph written by a young lady who said, ” … because we fix things.” So, let’s roll up our sleeves and fix this thing!

Robert “Woody” Wilson

Parkersburg