The Herald-Dispatch. April 25, 2023,
Editorial: WV schools follow national trend in reading instruction
Nationwide, school-age children’s reading skills are in decline, including in West Virginia. School shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that trend.
It became obvious late last year when an embarrassing national report showed a sample of West Virginia public school students ranked near the bottom in reading and mathematics.
Those two subjects are the key to learning other subjects in school and to developing skills necessary for lifelong learning.
“We know it all begins with literacy, and students who cannot read become adults who struggle to succeed. Literacy and reading have an immeasurable impact,” state Superintendent David Roach said during a state Board of Education meeting in December.
At that meeting, Roach announced a back-to-basics plan to deal with public schools’ shortcomings. Roach said schools need to refine their focus on reading, writing and mathematics and, in particular, return to teaching the science of reading. He also said teachers must focus on expanding concepts as students progress into deeper levels of learning.
A return to the “science of reading” strategy is a nationwide trend, not just in West Virginia. According to an Associated Press report that moved last week, “momentum has shifted lately in favor of the ‘science of reading.’
The term refers to decades of research in fields including brain science that point to effective strategies for teaching kids to read, including a focus on phonics and the building blocks of words. A push to teach all students this way has intensified as schools look for ways to regain ground lost during the pandemic.”
According to the AP, states often look to duplicate what has happened in Mississippi, which has credited reading gains to a curriculum revamp that started a decade ago.
The multi-million dollar effort includes training teachers on the science of reading.
But what’s most important, educators say, is for parents to read to their children — get them started early on the importance and the joy of reading. Reading is crucial to finding information, absorbing it, processing it and acting on it.
With one school year ending and another about to begin, it will be months before we learn if the adoption of the science of reading approach will help children in West Virginia and in other states. But it’s worth a try. If what we’ve been doing isn’t getting the results we want, it’s time to change what we’re doing.
The Intelligencer. April 21, 2023.
Editorial: Accelerate DHHR Restructure Plan
As lawmakers gathered in Charleston for this April’s interim meetings, surely they were expecting better progress on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources split. What they heard from Dr. Jeffrey Coben, the interim cabinet secretary for DHHR, amounted to “we’re working on it and we’ll get back to you.”
To be fair, bureaucracy isn’t good at self-examination and improvement. But it is built for enlarging itself — one would think such an opportunity would be embraced.
Instead, Coben told the Legislature he has not yet even put together a document regarding his plans for implementing the split. In an explanation that must have had those in private business rolling their eyes, Coben told lawmakers he is planning a meeting to discuss the plan.
“I hope following those meetings I will be able to come back to you with more specific plans that have been discussed and vetted with the Governor’s Office as well,” Coben said. “Those meetings will be in depth. They will be our initial meetings. Some decisions, I hope, will be made during that time. We may need to have subsequent meetings … to really finalize the plans as it relates to the governor’s thoughts moving forward.”
At that pace, we should be having one last meeting to discuss the results of the past eight months worth of planning discussions and meetings sometime around Christmas. But taxpayers will be forgiven if they wonder whether the split into a Department of Human Services, a Department of Health and a Department of Health Facilities will be completed by Jan. 1, 2024.
As Coben laid out concerns about implementing the DHHR split, House Deputy Speaker Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell, was right to push back a little on the excuses.
“I don’t believe we’re trying to do anything here that other states aren’t already doing,” Rohrbach said. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here.”
Coben and other public officials may very well pull themselves together and complete the split of DHHR properly and on time. Doing so will require a shift in strategy toward less talk, fewer excuses and a lot more action.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. April 18, 2023.
Editorial: Burning Laws: Follow the rules and save a life
It is easy to read warnings about burning restrictions during spring fire season and ignore them, or behave as though they do not apply. But until May 31, West Virginians are prohibited from burning outside the hours from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. Fires set during that time must be put out before 7 a.m.
From Jan. 1 to March 1, West Virginia Division of Forestry firefighters faced 162 fires that burned more than 1,144 acres. The workload has only increased. In fact, these men and women have been facing the impossible. Last week, one of them paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.
Cody Mullens, 28, of Mt. Hope, was fighting a brushfire in Fayette County when a tree fell and killed him.
“Cathy and I are heartbroken by the tragic news of losing one of our own,” said Gov. Jim Justice. “Our state foresters are some of the most dedicated workers in our state, putting their lives on the line to protect our communities from wildfires, and we owe them all, especially Cody, an enormous debt of gratitude.”
We owe them our gratitude, certainly. But also the peace of mind of knowing Mountain State residents care enough about them and the land to follow simple rules.
All fires must have a ring or safety strip cleared of burnable material and at least 10 feet wide. Any fire must be attended until completely extinguished. Only vegetative materials (leaves, brush, yard clippings, etc.) are permitted to be burned. Spark-throwing machinery operating on land subject to fire must contain an adequate spark arrestor. And inflammable waste disposal areas must annually remove all grass, brush, debris and other inflammable material adjacent to disposal areas to prevent the escape of fire to adjacent land.
“Our fire laws protect one of West Virginia’s most valuable resources: our forests,” Jones said. “We urge everyone who burns anything outside to be completely familiar with the guidelines available on our website.” (wvforestry.com/fire-laws/)
Jones is right, but we would add the laws protect not only our forests, but our forester/firefighters. They are facing a season with challenges most of us cannot fathom. They do it because they love the state and its land — and, frankly, because they are willing to do what most would not to protect those things.
For Cody Mullens, that dedication cost him his life. Remember that — and maybe keep the rest of them a little safer — by following the law.
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