Martirano’s push for higher expectations still critical

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — In just two years, West Virginia Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano has done much to set a new tone for public education in the Mountain State.

There were few of the socio-economic excuses we often hear to explain the low achievement levels for West Virginia students. He accepted the challenge and went to work pushing for improvement.

So, it was disappointing to learn last week that he would resign next summer and return to his native Maryland for family reasons. His wife had suffered a prolonged illness and died in May, and understandably Martirano wants to be there for his children in Maryland.

 With budget crunches and heated debates over school standards, his years in West Virginia were certainly no walk in the park. But early on, he outlined goals that looked beyond the annual legislative sideshows and focused on the real needs of our students and our state.

Chief among those was to change the public’s expectations about education.

“We must believe that all young people can and will learn, and that every young person in West Virginia must be provided with a world-class education,” Martirano wrote in his long-range plan. “It must be a rigorous educational experience that focuses on each student graduating from high school being fully prepared for college and careers.”

 Clearly, that’s not the expectation now. Consider that West Virginia students lag behind on many achievement measures and many of our high school graduates have to take remedial courses to get started in college. Moreover, 20 percent of high school freshmen drop out before getting their diploma, and 50 percent of those who do graduate from high school do not pursue any form of higher education.

Those statistics show that far too many parents – and to some extent the public as a whole – do not see the value and importance of education to their future and the state’s future.

Martirano detailed work to improve teaching and learning, create safe and supportive school environments, increase attendance and professional development and engage parents and each school’s community in all the work that needs to be done.

As the search for a new state superintendent begins, it would be good to keep those goals in mind. West Virginia needs an education leader who will push for higher standards and expectations and not just settle for the status quo and the lowest educational attainment rate in the country.

See more from The Herald-Dispatch. 

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