West Virginia Superintendent of Schools discusses Department of Education’s focus


NOW BACK TO “INSIDE WEST VIRGINIA POLITICS” WITH MARK CURTIS. WELCOME BACK TO “INSIDE WEST VIRGINIA POLITICS.” I’M ADRIANE ROBBINS AND WE’RE CONTINUING OUR DISCUSSION ON EDUCATION WITH THE FIRST OF SCHOOL SO CLOSE. DR. STEVE PAYNE, STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS IN WEST VIRGINIA, THANKS FOR BEING WITH US. THANK YOU FOR ASKING ME. DOES IT EVER GET OLD, THAT FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FEELING? NO, IT DOESN’T, ESPECIALLY FOR OUR KIDS. AND THE CHILDREN THAT WALK INTO THAT CLASSROOM, THEY ARE EXCITED BEYOND BELIEF RIGHT NOW, THEY ARE READY TO COME BACK TO SCHOOL, AND OUR TEACHERS ARE SO WELCOMING OF THEM, AND IT’S JUST, I REMEMBER THOSE DAYS A LONG, LONG TIME AGO. AND IT’S JUST A GREAT TIME OF THE YEAR. I KNOW THE TEACHERS ACTUALLY PUT IN A LOT OF WORK OVER THE SUMMER THROUGH TRAINING AND GETTING THEIR CLASSROOMS READY. A LOT OF PEOPLE ASSUME THAT TEACHERS HAVE THE SUMMER OFF, BUT THAT’S NOT REALLY THE CASE. NO. NOT AT ALL. MOST TEACHERS WORK A 200 DAY CONTRACT, BUT IN THE SUMMERTIME THEY’RE LEARNING, AS YOU SAID, PROFESSIONALLY, PREPARING THEMSELVES WITH CONTENT KNOWLEDGE, NEW TEACHING STRATEGIES, AND VERY, VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE WE HAVE A LOT OF CHALLENGES THAT FACE US IN PUBLIC EDUCATION TODAY. WE HAVE KIDS THAT ARE COMING FROM SOME DISADVANTAGED BACKGROUNDS, THAT NUMBER IS ESCALATING RIGHT NOW. WE CALL THEM TRAUMA AFFECTED KIDS. 52% OF OUR KIDS IN WEST VIRGINIA HAVE GONE THROUGH, BY DEFINITION, SOME KIND OF A TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE THAT POTENTIALLY CAN AFFECT THE WAY THEY LEARN. SO NOT ONLY ARE WE LEARNING HOW TO TEACH MATH AT HIGHER LEVELS WITH MORE FOCUSED STRATEGIES, BUT WE’RE ALSO SPENDING A LOT OF TIME TALKING ABOUT THOSE NEEDS OF OUR KIDS AS WELL, THE TRAUMA OF WHAT WE CALL SOCIAL EMOTIONAL MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS. ABSOLUTELY. AND STAYING IN THE SAME VEIN OF THESE TEACHERS, OBVIOUSLY, THERE’S REPORTED SHORTAGES ACROSS WEST VIRGINIA RIGHT NOW. IS THAT NORMAL? IS THAT COMMON? IT’S BEEN COMMON FOR A GOOD PERIOD OF TIME, BUT IT’S INCREASING IN THE PAST FEW YEARS. THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A SHORTAGE OF TEACHERS IN OUR EASTERN PANHANDLE, IN MORGAN, BERKELEY AND JEFFERSON COUNTIES. AND SOME OF THE COUNTIES UP THERE, I DON’T MEAN TO LEAVE ANY OF THEM OUT, BUT THAT’S DUE TO SURROUNDING STATES AND SALARY LEVELS AND COMPETITION AND THAT KIND OF THING. BUT GENERALLY IN WEST VIRGINIA, I’LL USE MATHEMATICS ONCE AGAIN AS AN EXAMPLE, ALGEBRA ONE CLASSROOMS, 25% OF OUR CLASSROOMS ARE TAUGHT BY NONCERTIFIED MATH TEACHERS. THEY MIGHT BE CERTIFIED TEACHERS, BUT IN ANOTHER CONTENT AREA. 25% OF OUR GEE ONLYITY CLASSES — GEOMETRY GLASSES ARE CAUGHT BY NONCERTIFIED MATH TEACHERS. WE ARE WORKING HARD TO GET THOSE TEACHERS WHO ARE WILL BE TO TACK THEY’LL ASSIGNMENT EVEN THOUGH THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE HAD THE MATH CONTENT, WE’RE DOING OUR BEST TO GIVE THEM A CRASH COURSE SO THEY CAN TEACH THOSE KIDS ON THOSE SUBJECTS. TELL ME SOME OF THE THINGS YOU GUYS ARE FOCUSING ONGOING INTO THIS NEXT SCHOOL YEAR. WELL, I’LL CONTINUE TO TALK ABOUT MATH AS A THEME. WE HAVE A THEMED PROGRAM, AN INITIATIVE THAT WE PARTNER WITH ALL 55 OF OUR DISTRICTS AND IT’S CALLED MATH FOR LIFE. WE CHOSE THAT BECAUSE MATH IS OUR WEAKEST AREA OF STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT, IT HAS BEEN FOR THE PAST 30 YEARS, AND IT’S TIME TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. SO WE ARE INTENTLY FOCUSED ON MATHEMATICS. THERE WAS A PROVISION IN HOUSE BILL 206 THAT WAS, THAT PROVIDED FOR AN INCENTIVE FOR TEACHERS OF MATHEMATICS TO TRY TO ATTRACT AND RETAIN TEACHERS. LET’S TRY IT, LET’S SEE WHAT WE CAN DO. BUT WE ALSO HAVE SHORTAGES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION, SCIENCE, AND OTHER CONTENT AREAS THROUGHOUT THE STATE AS WELL. SO IT’S A TREND THAT IS GROWING. IF YOU LOOK AT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES AND THE NUMBERS OF TEACHER CANDIDATES THAT THEY ARE EDUCATING, THEIR NUMBERS ARE GOING DOWN. SO IT’S A SYSTEMIC PROBLEM, IT’S NOT JUST SHOWING UP IN OUR CLASSROOMS IN THE STATE. SO OTHER STATES ARE DEALING WITH THIS AS WELL, IT’S NOT JUST A WEST VIRGINIA PROBLEM, BECAUSE A LOT OF TIMES WE DO HAVE WEST VIRGINIA PROBLEMS THAT OTHER STATES DON’T NECESSARILY SEE. WE DO. AND SOME STATES HAVE PROBLEMS WITH SHORTAGES MORE SO THAN US. SOME LESS. AND SO WE’RE PROBABLY TYPICAL OF A LOT OF STATES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. ALL RIGHT, EXCELLENT. WE’RE GOING TO STICK AROUND, WE’LL BE DISCUSSING HOUSE BILL 206 NEXT. RIGHT NOW WE’RE GOING TO TAKE A QUICK BREAK.

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