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Paine: Plan to improve math scores to focus on algebra where a third of teachers aren’t certified

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By: Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

The state Department of Education has finalized a plan to address the poor scores in math and student attendance issues that showed up against on the first-ever Balanced Scorecard released earlier this school year.

Mathematics performance, particularly at the middle school and high school levels, is low system wide. Only 37 percent of students tested proficient in math, 45 percent in English/Language Arts.

“The math plan is done,” state School Superintendent Dr. Steve Paine said Wednesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The plan has been vetted by national experts on math student achievement, according to Paine.

Its emphasis is on addressing the classrooms where algebra and geometry are taught. Paine said up to 30 percent of those algebra classrooms in West Virginia are taught by non-certified teachers.

“They have not received the formal math content training to be able to teach the subject of algebra. It’s no fault of their own,” Paine said. “We try to support them but they don’t have the formal training.”

It’s all connected to the qualified teacher shortage issue in several subjects that numbers approximately 700 statewide.

According to Paine, the plan to improve math scores includes Memorandums of Understanding signed with all 55 school districts.

“For all of those folks that are not certified (in algebra or geometry), we want to get them formal training immediately, as soon as we possibly can,” Paine said. “We’re going to do that in a combination of face-to-face training or virtual training or both so immediately we can give them the support that they need.”

Paine said the additional professional development, which could also include additional training classes for non-certified teachers, will be paid for by the state.

A second part of the plan will be to contract with what Paine called “exceptional master teachers” to teach children algebra by video stream.

“I hope that we can create a network so that we find and identify these masterful teachers of algebra and we can figure out a network where we can stream the live instruction to remote areas and a I would like to do it in every non-certified classroom,” Paine said.

A separate certification for algebra and geometry is also under consideration. Currently, math teachers are certified all the way through calculus. According to Paine, 92 percent of employers say all they need is for workers to know algebraic concepts.

Attendance

The plan to address poor attendance remains in its early stages, Paine said.

It’s starting out with a survey of parents, guardians and teachers to find out why kids aren’t in school and why they are tardy.

Paine said the southern coalfields area shows the most attendance problems. He said a lot has to do with the opioid crisis. He said it’s a complex issue. A Blue Ribbon panel is working to identify the problem and propose solutions.

Paine said student achievement must improve.

“Gov. Justice has placed his confidence in educators and those in the system (proposing another 5 percent pay raise). Now it’s up to us to give him something back. We have to improve results,” Paine said.