Teachers have their say on the future of W.Va. classrooms

February 16, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Rapid student population growth in the Eastern Panhandle and how to deal with it were two issues discussed Wednesday night at Hedgesville High School as part of a statewide forum to determine future needs of the state public education system.

In eight stops around the state for a program called "Voices from the Field: A Forum for WV Educators," the state Department of Education is asking teachers for input to shape the vision for 21st-century classrooms.

Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Middle School teacher Cheryl Jones said the growing student population and low pay for teachers were some of the issues highlighted in a small discussion group in which she was involved.


Effectively managing the area's student population growth is important because it affects so many areas, Jones said.

The exploding population is the reason some classes are too big and why money is being spread too thin on school needs, Jones said.

"It just sort of drives everything," Jones said.

Pay for teachers needs to be increased to stop the flow of teachers going across state borders for higher pay, Jones said.

Hedgesville High School teacher Melissa Lough said her discussion group emphasized professional development for all teachers.

Classrooms also need state-of-the art technology and someone designated in each school to maintain it, Lough said.

Technical support experts are overworked in the local school system, Lough said.

Lough said her group emphasized that students need more critical thinking skills and that the school system should emphasize racial tolerance to students.

It is important that local students learn to tolerate people of various ethnic backgrounds since the Eastern Panhandle's population is changing so rapidly, Lough said.

Teachers said it is also important that:

  • Students read and comprehend in a variety of formats and that they be proficient in technical writing.

  • Students be encouraged to be lifelong learners.

  • Students be encouraged to take risks and learn from failures.

  • Students be prepared to telecommute.

  • Students be accountable and take on responsibility, which will cause them to take learning more seriously.

  • Teachers have adequate time for planning.

  • Officials cut out unfunded mandates.

State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine, who was at Wednesday's event, came up with the idea of the forum to allow teachers to shape the vision for 21st-century classrooms.

Paine, former Morgan County Schools superintendent, said it is important to provide students with instruction that has "world-class rigor" and allows them to be competitive in the 21st-century workplace.

It is important that students learn how to comprehend, solve problems and communicate solutions if they are to compete on a global level, Paine said.

Paine said Gov. Joe Manchin has earmarked $2.5 million in his budget to get the initiative started. Paine said he does not know how much more money might be needed.

Paine said he might look to corporations like the "Dells" and the "Microsofts," saying he thinks they have an obligation to help.

"We're preparing their future work force," Paine said.

The forum has three more stops. It is expected to be held in Wheeling, W.Va., today, and later in Lewisburg, W.Va., and Huntington, W.Va., Paine said.

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