Telegram Editorial, Feb. 24, 1999

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



Exponent Editorial, March 3, 1999
Harrison EMS should not reject consolidation
out of hand

    Given the Harrison County Emergency Squad's announcement last month of its near-bankrupt status, the recent evaluation of its services was certainly a much-needed step.
    It's just a shame that options outlined in the subsequent report seemed to waver a bit as to the possibility of consolidation.
After all, the suggestion was brought up initially with the squad's announcement of its "in-the-red" situation. At that time, it was noted that Jan-Care had already made an offer to buy the squad, a proposition that was turned down by the squad board.
    But board members also predicted that the other non-profit ambulance services, including Bridgeport, Salem, Clay-Eagle and Anmoore, could all face fates similar to their own if consolidation was not made a reality.
    Well, that possibility now seems remote at best. The evaluation of the squad, conducted by the medical directors of the emergency squads in Marion and Monongalia counties, took a pretty pessimistic view of the whole consolidation idea.
    In short, the report stated that negotiations must first occur before consolidation could even be considered. And consolidation, it noted, could take years to take place.
    It's a sentiment apparently shared by other squads. According to Kelly Blackwell, president of the county's EMS Authority, none of the other Harrison squads have any interest in combining their services.
    The report did, however, list a number of options for improving the squad's financial situation. Suggestions included the expansion of services to include non-emergency runs, improving billing and accounting practices and more.
    We hope that's enough. But if it isn't, we hope county emergency squads will look a little harder into the possibility of combining forces.

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.



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