Expansion of Salem Home for Youth will have multiple benefits

     We see good things coming out of the expansion of Salem's Industrial Home for Youth.
    The $17 million project is scheduled to get under way next week and completed by late 2000 or early 2001. It will result in an increase of 140 beds and a near doubling of the current guard force. The expansion promises benefits to both the area community and to the youth whom it will house.
    For one, it will allow many state youth who are now serving sentences in out-of-state facilities to move back to West Virginia, a move that will likely save our own state money. And in instances where the support and intervention of family members could prove beneficial to troubled youth, having proximity to them would certainly be advantageous.
    According to Paul Leeper, superintendent of the Industrial Home, the state is also hoping to increase the number of programs to counsel and treat the juveniles. The goal, of course, is to rehabilitate the youth so they won't commit additional crimes after their release. "Locking them up doesn't just solve the problem," Leeper said.
    True. And it would seem that incarcerating youth, with little or no attempt to understand or solve the problem that got them there in the first place, would only make the situation worse.
    Another obvious result of the expansion will be the creation of jobs. The number of youth at the home could very well triple, according to Leeper, who also noted that all of the facility's resources will multiply. While the exact number of jobs that will become available can't be determined this early, "There's no question that new positions will be a necessity.
    The opportunity for troubled juveniles to return home to serve out their sentences, an increase in counseling programs for those same juveniles and the creation of job opportunities for the area: It's hard to see much wrong with that picture.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Effectiveness, not exams, true test of excellent teachers

    It has been stated that the quality of America's public schools ultimately depends on the competence and the commitment of its teachers, and West Virginia is certainly no exception.
    To be fair, teachers must be graded by administrators and accreditors on how well their students learn from them and by their eagerness to see to it that the students are learning. Basing a teacher's pay on anything not merit-related is wrong, wrong, wrong.
    Generally, teachers will not remain in the profession long enough to build a respectable tenure if their skills in assisting their students to learn from them are not adequate. It goes back to merit. If a teacher is effective in the classroom and properly motivates students to want to learn, it will be borne out when test time comes.
    There is a movement afoot by the U.S. Department of Education to propose a national model for licensing teachers. While Education Secretary Richard Riley’s motives of raising the bar on teacher quality seem noble, we are not convinced that proposing national standards for teacher licensing and certification is the answer. We have our doubts that such standards will significantly address the problem of teacher quality.
    Too much emphasis has been placed on the testing of teachers and not enough on what their students have actually learned. Is that not the whole idea of the education system?
    The national Commission on Teaching and America's Future reported last September that the single most important strategy for achieving the nation's education goals is to recruit, to prepare and to support excellent teachers for every school.
    That looks all very well on paper, but in West Virginia, as expressed by Senate Education Chairman Lloyd Jackson, D-Lincoln, historically it has been difficult for school systems to find certified teachers for every class every year.
To be sure, there are and have been some excellent teachers in West Virginia. How do we know? Just ask their students.
    Don’t simply rely on a hit-or-miss examination. It is difficult for any test to predict the performance of teachers. It is the same with students, some people do well on tests and others do not.
    To us, there can be no better yardstick of teaching quality than actual performance on the job. In fact, we are surprised that school administrators have not made greater use of this actual performance information in their personnel policies.
    If school administrators and education experts are really serious about raising the bar on teacher quality, they themselves must demonstrate more efficient methods of recognizing their good teachers' positive merits. What could be more important?
Robert F. Stealey
Telegram Editorial Board member


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Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999