Extra Credit

As part of the national Teacher Appreciation Week, the West Virginia Department of Education on Monday launched a year-long campaign asking citizens to thank their favorite teacher by posting messages and sharing photos on social media websites.

By using the hashtag #wvteachersrule, all posts will be cataloged and easy to view on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In a press release, state Superintendent Michael Martirano had the following to say:

As Teacher Appreciation Week is kicked off on May 4, I wanted to say thank you for what you do each and every day. These words are not said often enough to teachers.

Every one of us can think of a teacher who really made a difference. It’s this special teacher that made us want to become teachers ourselves. I come from a long line of teachers so it was a natural career choice. My family was driven to make a difference and serve our community. I always say that I am a teacher first and foremost who just happens to be the state superintendent of schools.

As educators you face both joys and challenges in the classroom. When you decided to become teachers, you chose a profession unlike any other. On a daily basis you wear many hats: educator, disciplinarian, advocate, psychologist, conflict manager, classroom manager, community organizer, recruiter, fund raiser, mentor and more. It is precisely the multifaceted roles that we take on that make teaching both challenging and rewarding.

As part of the One Voice, One Focus: All Students Achieving Vision Plan we shine a light on the importance of recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers in every West Virginia classroom. Research tells us that you are the single most important factor in how much a child learns at school. Your role in the classroom is ever more critical as we increase the graduation rate, eradicate the dropout crisis and ensure that every child is in school every day.

As teachers today, you must do more than teach basic skills. You must use quality teaching techniques to push students beyond mastery of basic skills to become tomorrow’s better educated worker, who can manage complexity, solve problems and think critically. Your charge is not just to ensure that your students can live in the world as it is, but to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge that will enable them to succeed in the world that awaits them.

Thank you for your daily efforts to meet this challenge. We, as a state, must make sure that we celebrate outstanding educators like you — not just during Teacher Appreciation Week — but every day for the important work you do with our children.

We are launching a year-long social media campaign to thank teachers titled WV Teachers Rule. As part of the social media campaign, we are asking that every citizen send out a message or share a picture using #wvteachersrule to thank their favorite teachers. I am looking forward to reviewing all of the tweets, posts and pictures.


WV public hearing on charter schools

At 8 a.m. on Tuesday there will be a public hearing on SB 14, a bill that would create charter schools in the state.

Senate Bill 14 was the focus of a lot of debate in the Senate and passed last Monday on a vote of 18 to 16.

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated and free from certain state and local regulations. While they have the freedom to set their own hiring policies, create a calendar and adopt a curriculum, they must still follow state-approved academic standards.

While charter schools are supported by many organizations for their success in improving student achievement in large suburban districts around the country, the state’s teachers unions argue it would create a disparity in public education spending and set up exclusive schools for privileged students.

Livestream below is from West Virginia Public Broadcasting. With running commentary below that from Daily Mail education writer Samuel Speciale and others:

Live Blog WV public hearing on charter schools

State superintendent hires new chief of staff

Superintendent Michael Martirano has made a number of personnel changes to the West Virginia Department of Education since becoming the state’s schools chief in September 2014.

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano has hired a chief of staff who will oversee the day-to-day operations of his office.

While the state Department of Education has not yet made an announcement, the hiring of Jill Newman is listed on the state Board of Education’s February meeting agenda in an attachment detailing personnel matters. According to that document, Newman will join the department on Feb. 23 and will be paid an annual salary of $125,000.

The department posted the job in December, and Martirano announced last month during a meeting with the state’s Senate Education Committee that he would soon fill the newly created position.

At that meeting, Martirano addressed concerns with the department’s staffing levels, but said the hiring and other personnel changes he has made since becoming superintendent in September will make his office more efficient and effective.

Legislators have been critical of the department’s staffing since 2012 when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin commissioned an audit that concluded the department had a bloated administration that wasted millions.

Martirano already has a number of executive assistants, hired by former superintendents, who have job duties similar to those of the chief of staff. They each receive salaries ranging from $60,000 to $95,000.

The chief of staff, however, will have a more specialized role and, in addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of Martirano’s office, will ensure there is effective communication and alignment between the department, the Board of Education and other education officials throughout the state.

The Daily Mail awaits more information on Newman’s hiring, including her education and professional experience and whether she is a local or out-of-state hire, but according to the department, qualifications for the position included a master’s degree in education or a related field and five years of experience working with superintendents or other executives.

Newman’s hiring is part of a larger reshuffling in Building 6 Martirano says will help the department better carry out his vision plan, “One Voice, Once Focus, All Students Achieving.”

In January, Martirano changed the organizational structure of his cabinet by reclassifying the titles of his senior administrators. The state’s four associate superintendents are now called chief officers. He also hired a legislative liaison.

The department incurred no costs by rebranding those job titles, and while the two new hires together will be paid about $215,000, department spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said they will not be paid with new money. She said the new positions are funded with money leftover from not filling a number of vacancies within the department. Tomblin instituted a hiring freeze on new non-essential state employees late in 2013.

Follow along as the state school board and members of the public discuss changes to climate change science standards:

Live Blog WV school board and science education

State superintendent starts new video series

State Superintendent Michael Martirano and school board President Gayle Manchin, discuss education topics in a new video series about his vision plan, “One Voice, One Focus: All Students Achieving.”

State Superintendent Michael Martirano released a video Tuesday in what he says will be the first in a series of talks about his goals for West Virginia’s education system.

Martirano said the series, which is based on his vision plan “One Voice, One Focus: All Students Achieving,” will be a way for the Department of Education to communicate with educators, parents, students and lawmakers about the “good things that are going on in our state.” Martirano intends to interview state education leaders in each segment.

The video, featuring an armchair discussion with Board of Education President Gayle Manchin, clocks in at nearly 20 minutes and covers topics like the board’s focus on student achievement, the implementation of Next Generation Content Standards and parental involvement in education.

Martirano starts the video with a few observations from his first two months in West Virginia. Martirano joined the department in September after directing the St. Mary’s County school district in Maryland for nine years.

“I’ve been very impressed by the board’s focus on improving student achievement,” he said.

While West Virginia currently ranks in the bottom half of nearly every national student achievement metric, slight improvements have been seen in recent years. Martirano, who drastically improved graduation rates in St. Mary’s County, has turned his sights on similar endeavors in West Virginia.

Part of improving student achievement, Martirano says, is the implementation of new education standards that call for “deeper levels” of learning.

Manchin said those standards have raised the bar for West Virginia and can be challenging for students, parents and teachers.

“But that’s what change is,” Manchin said. “It’s going in a different direction.”

That direction is still in its earliest stage. The standards, adopted by the board in 2010, weren’t fully implemented statewide until the start of the fall semester, and new assessments to monitor student progress won’t be used until this spring.

“We think it’s the right direction for the 21st century,” Manchin added.

The state’s top two education officials also discussed remediation efforts in McDowell County, which due to its secluded and rural landscape, doesn’t have the same resources other counties have.

“We have to bring resources to the school and make it the hub of support for families,” Manchin said, later adding that parental involvement in education is vital to improvement.

While Manchin did most of the talking, Martirano focused the discussion on topics found in his vision plan. The plan calls for improved department efficiency and student achievement, among other things. It can be read in full by clicking here.

State embargo delays student test score release

An embargo halting the release of student standardized test scores will remain in effect until all county data is returned and validated, a Department of Education spokesperson said Thursday.

Westest results, which typically are shared with county boards of education in the summer, must first be verified before their release to the public. The process has taken longer than expected this year and has been the source of much frustration for local school officials.

The department has blamed the months-long delay on new digital testing methods. This was the first year the test was administered solely online, an endeavor that also experienced widespread problems.

“The worst thing we can do is release something and it be wrong,” said Liza Cordeiro, the department’s communications director. She later added the department exercises caution when dealing with student information.

The delay, however, has irritated local school officials.

During a Kanawha County Board of Education meeting Tuesday, board President Robin Rector said the department is to blame, not the counties.

Schools boards use the data to determine which schools need intervention and inform teachers what subjects need more attention.

Cordeiro said school boards should already have their results though.

At the board’s meeting Tuesday, Kanawha County Deputy Superintendent Tom Williams said the embargo could be lifted as early as Thursday. While the moratorium continues, Rector said she would be surprised if the results aren’t issued in time for board members to discuss them at their next curriculum meeting on Dec. 1.

Last year, the test results were released in early September and revealed statewide gains in reading and math proficiency.

Kanawha County also showed improvement. More than 40 percent of county schools were given a “success” ranking, which is the highest designation in the department’s new school accountability system.

The rankings are designed to identify areas where schools may be struggling. A success label is given only when a majority of students meet academic benchmarks and the school meets attendance, graduation and achievement goals.

This is the last year Westest scores will be released by the department. Starting this spring, the state will switch to the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment tests.

State school board leaves audience hanging

It’s not uncommon for the West Virginia Board of Education to enter an executive session — its members are entitled to discuss personnel matters in private. What’s surprising, though, is how often the board gaffes when they do so.

On Wednesday during a meeting in Mingo County, the board went behind closed doors to discuss hiring a new audits director, but failed to notify Department of Education staff, a teacher union representative and a reporter when the session had ended.

By the time anyone realized what happened, the entire meeting had concluded and the only explanation given was that the board thought everyone left.


To make matters worse, the handful of people waiting for the meeting to resume were subjected to listening to an instrumental version of “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” by British rock band Coldplay on an endless loop through crackling cafeteria speakers.

“I’ll never be able to listen to Coldplay after this,” one person said.

Board members didn’t do anything controversial during their brief time without media or union oversight, but they did hire Susan O’Brien to head its audits department. The deputy director of educator quality for the New Mexico public education system is a West Virginia native and will be paid $120,000 a year.

A look at West Virginia’s new superintendent


Decision or indecision?