Real School Reform Vital

Public school administrators in some West Virginia counties may breathe sighs of relief at the prospect of not having to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law. But local residents should not let them off the hook on which NCLB has left them hanging, in a way.

The decade-old federal law has been such a dismal failure in reforming public education that many states, including ours, are going to be granted waivers from complying with it. In exchange for that break, states must devise their own school improvement strategies.

Here in the Mountain State, it is clear some schools are in desperate need of drastic reforms. Part of the NCLB law, requiring that schools demonstrate “adequate yearly progress,” emphasizes the point.

Many schools, including some in our area, miss the AYP requirement from time to time. But five have failed to meet it for five years consecutively.

They are Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools in Brooke County, Weir and Oak Glen middle schools in Hancock County, and New Martinsville School in Wetzel County. A sixth area school, Moundsville Junior High in Marshall County, has missed AYP during the past four years.

AYP criteria measure just what the name implies – progress in school reform. Missing the mark year after year suggests a school has stalled in the process of improvement.

In some cases, measurements such as standardized test scores make it clear schools that miss AYP need to make a lot of progress to serve students as well as schools that meet AYP. Double-digit gaps in standardized test scores between AYP schools and their non-AYP peers are not uncommon.

At first glance, the fact all the local institutions that have missed AYP for five consecutive years serve middle school students may seem significant. Indeed, many educators agree that age level presents the most challenges in learning.

But elsewhere in the state – and in the Northern Panhandle – many middle schools do find ways to meet the AYP requirement.

Again, the NCLB law seems to have done little to improve many public schools. West Virginia and many other states have opportunities to devise their own reform strategies that do better jobs. In doing so, failings such as those illuminated by the AYP requirement simply must be addressed.