Extra Credit

This week in Education


  • Head Start programs in West Virginia are facing budget cuts, just like they are across the country, but students here shouldn’t lose access to preschool — just the services that go along with it, the ones that cater to low-income kids and their families.
  • A local coach is appealing to the Kanawha County School board.  He wants to be allowed to volunteer with George Washington High School’s football team. (And in case you were wondering: high school football season starts Thursday, y’all.)
  • Officials are trying to expand a popular reading program to schools in all 55 counties. Wanna help?
  • Over at the Gazette, Mackenzie Mays has something about the dip in college enrollment in West Virginia and the way that’s tied to the economy — the better the economy, the less people who decide to go to college.
  • Also, in case you missed it, check out our gallery of first-day-of-school photos. Pretty. Cute.

From a Parent’s Mouth

Allow me to direct your attention to the Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog, where Karan Ireland, a blogger/mom with a kids in Kanawha County school system, wrote Friday about feeling ripped off by this year’s school calendar — which made for a shorter-than-usual summer by about two weeks.

The clock ran out on us before I had the chance to dip-dye my daughter’s hair pink on the ends; before I had the chance to implement a “prepare for school” study regimen; before we even had the chance to get to the beach, or Ikea, or a major league baseball game!

School board: I NEED MORE TIME!

She’s putting into words on the Internet a sentiment that school board members have been considering for months: They decided last year to start school two weeks earlier than usual so the first semester will be over before Christmas break (no more cramming during winter vacation, kids!) but not without worries about the reaction from kids and parents.

If the next academic calendar looks like this one does, that means the summer will be back to its normal length, just shifted back by two weeks — but it’s still not clear if that’s what will happen. At the school board meeting last week board member Becky Jordon asked to have the issue placed on the agenda for next month’s meeting, so we’ll have to wait to see how that pans out.

Happy first day of school!

Kanawha County students are back in school today. In today’s paper I have a story about the rush to get the heating and cooling systems up and running in all the county’s schools before today’s early start date — and the fact that some schools still aren’t quite ready. There’s also a piece on school safety and the beefed up police presence parents will see when they drop their kids off at school today, and kids will continue to see in their classrooms and hallways throughout the year.

Watching “The Teacher”

It was released last month, but I’m just getting a look at The Teacher, the new documentary about legendary Charleston educator Mary C. Snow, produced by former public broadcasting director Mike Youngren. A cut of the full-length film materialized in our office last week and I nabbed it. The full film isn’t available online, but there’s a trailer on vimeo:

Snow worked as an educator in Charleston for decades and was Kanawha County”s first black principal of a desegregated school. She served as principal of Glenwood Elementary for many years, eventually retiring in her 90s, and was a near-legendary community figure on Charleston’s West Side.

Last year the naming of the West Side’s newest elementary school roused public outcry on behalf of Snow — the school board initially voted against naming the school after Snow, in favor of the more generic West Side Elementary, but reconsidered in the face of  the uproar from the West Side community.  (The name they settled on combines the two. The school is now called Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary. )


At home:



  • New York state released results from the state’s last standardized tests this morning. It’s the first test that aligns with the state’s version of the federal Common Core Standards, so the results have a lot to say about testing standards and education accountability. West Virginia is in the process of rolling out its own version of Common Core and that’s been controversial. We’ll get our first clues about the effectiveness of those standards when West Virginia students take a new standardized test themselves. Until then, though, we can look to New York — Gotham Schools is doing a great job of decoding the test score results.
  • I also liked this piece from the Washington Post on what schools across the country are doing to deal with parents who take issue with the teacher their child has been assigned to for the fall. Spoiler: Those parents often get pushy.

The back-to-school vaccine rush

From today’s paper, my story on the rush to immunize local kids before the first day of school.  That can be an ordeal in a normal year, but has the potential to be especially messy this August in Putnam county, where the county health department has at least partially closed in the wake of financial difficulties.

Here’s the crux of the issue, from my story:

Kanawha County schools resume classes in just four days. The Aug. 9 start date is the earliest in county history and has caused a scramble to get all students inoculated in time.

And Kanawha-Charleston also has been covering all clinical services for the Putnam County Health Department, which folded under the weight of a financial crisis in June.

By state law, students must have a host of vaccinations before they can attend classes. As such, Kanawha-Charleston will be open to walk-ins through much of the week.

Last year school systems across the state were struggling to get kids immunized before school because of new state laws that required 7th and 12th grade students to get new vaccines — not just kindergarten and preschool kids like in  past years. At least in Kanawha County, though, officials don’t expect that crunch to be as difficult this year as it was in 2012.

Back to school season is upon us: in stores, kid-sized mannequins are clad in denim, they wear backpacks and carry pencil cases. Students will return from the first day of school — Friday in Kanawha County schools — with lists of supplies for the year.

All that stuff costs money. And because of a few national surveys on the cost of school supplies, we can get an idea of how much.

My colleague Jared wrote last week about Huntington Bank’s “Backpack Index,” which measures the cost of all the things parents usually need to buy kids when they go back to school. The index found that the cost of school supplies increased 7.3 percent since last year. And, Jared wrote:

Parents of elementary and middle school children will pay 5.3 percent more for supplies this year, according to the survey. Huntington said the average elementary school parent is expected to spend about $577 their child’s supplies, while middle school parents should spend about $763.

And check the Backpack Index website for a back-t0-school budgeting tool that is kind of cool.

On the other side of that coin is the National Retail Federation’s annual survey on back-to-school spending — that survey predicts back-to-school spending to be down this year, but still expects total spending to reach $72.5 billion. Of that, back-to-college spending should account for something like $45.8 billion.

For young kids, most of that money will be spent on clothing, apparently:

The biggest portion of back-to-school shoppers’ budgets will go toward new apparel and accessories: 95.3 percent of those with school-age children will spend an average of $230.85 on fall sweaters, denim and other chic pieces of attire. Additionally, families will spend on shoes ($114.39) and school supplies ($90.49).

Fewer families with children in grades K-12 will purchase electronics (55.7%), and those that are going to invest in a new tablet or smartphone are going to spend slightly less than last year ($199.05 vs. $217.88 in 2012).

But for college kids, the most money will go toward technology, and stuff to outfit their dorms and apartments.

Though almost every category will see a decrease in spending, there’s one area that will increase for retailers: dorm and apartment furnishings. Two in five (42.0%) families will spend an average $104.76 on new bedding, small refrigerators and microwaves, up from $100.27 last year. Spending on food items is expected to increase as well ($104.44 vs. $100.18 last year).