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Daily Mail editorial: To improve education, stop micromanaging educators

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Daily Mail editorial: To improve education, stop micromanaging educators
Charleston Gazette-Mail

It seems like the state’s governing structure for public education is sort of like your 12th-grade English teacher at the time the class was assigned to write its first term paper (before such assignments were done online).

The teacher issues a long list of instructions: Center the heading at the top of Page 1. Double-space each line. Set the left margin at 1 inch, the right margin at one and one-half inches. Put the page number, starting on Page 2, on the lower right-hand corner of each page. Document your sources with footnotes following exactly Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

Even though there have been some efforts toward improvement, micromanagement of public education still seems to be a fault of the West Virginia Legislature.

As reported by Gazette-Mail education reporter Ryan Quinn, Senate Bill 18 would ban the state Board of Education from using its current Smarter Balanced tests or tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), even though the state school board has said it plans to discontinue Smarter Balanced.

Both Smarter Balanced and PARCC testing systems specifically were built to align to the Common Core math and English language arts national education standards blueprint. The legislation also would require the state to, starting next school year, “use a new comprehensive statewide student assessment program.”

It says this assessment program must be used “for at least a total of four consecutive years.” Meaning, even if administrators find the new program a disaster, by law they would still have to implement it in subsequent years regardless.

And it goes on like those detailed rules for your 12th-grade term paper.

The point here isn’t to favor or disfavor those particular standards but to remind legislators of the often overlooked 2012 Education Efficiency Audit, which pointed out that West Virginia had the most overly controlled school system of any state the auditors had seen.

 Much of that over control is due to well-meaning legislation over the years that imposes burdens and restricts flexibility among local school administrators and teachers.

West Virginia ranks among the bottom in education achievement. Not all of the factors that cause low performance are the fault of the school system.

But we must wonder, perhaps overregulation of our school system is holding our teachers back from doing a better job educating their charges.

Innovation is one subject that needs more attention in school. Teach students a trade or skill not just so they can find jobs, but so they might create their own. The same lesson is needed for legislators and education bureaucrats: Free the teachers and administrators to innovate, and watch them improve our state’s education system.