January 15, 2016 — Volume 36 Issue 1



West Virginia leads the nation in developing children’s literacy skills according to a recent study released by New America’s Education Policy Program. The report, From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth-Third Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers, ranks West Virginia as one of five states identified as “walking” or making solid strides toward comprehensive birth-to-third-grade policy.

West Virginia was joined by New York, Oklahoma, Connecticut and Wisconsin as the top states ensuring children are on track to read on grade level by the end of third grade.

The report notes that “it should come as little surprise that Oklahoma and West Virginia score fairly well. They each have robust state pre-K programs that include basic quality indicators. Pre-K programs in both states have low adult-to-child ratios, teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in early childhood education and the state conducts site visits to ensure that programs follow state requirements.”

The report evaluated states on 65 indicators in seven policy areas including: educator qualifications; standards, assessment and data; equitable funding; pre-K; full-day kindergarten; dual-language-learner supports; and third-grade reading laws.

West Virginia scored well in the kindergarten and pre-K categories. Full-day kindergarten is required under state statute, and West Virginia has a state-funded pre-K program. In addition, the state has a third-grade reading law. West Virginia provides its highest-poverty districts with equal to or more funding than low-poverty districts and provides strong education spending relative to the state’s economic productivity.

“This report solidifies that West Virginia is moving in the right direction,” state Supt. Michael Martirano said. “We know that closing the literacy achievement gap by the end of third grade will increase opportunities for all West Virginia students to graduate high school with the skills and dispositions needed to enter the world college and career ready. The work to support the success of all West Virginia students starts with policies that impact children from birth through third grade.”

Among the success outlined, the report does note there is still work left to do across all states to truly make a difference for all children within the birth-to-third-grade continuum.

“The report indicates areas in which we plan to continue to improve moving forward and the further refinement of a world-class early learning education system will require all stakeholders to have an active role,” Clayton Burch, chief academic officer, said. “We will continue to work to ensure West Virginia children have access to high-quality early learning programming with an emphasis on early learning attendance, school readiness and access to high-quality extended-day and extended-year programs for young learners.”

The study was funded by the Joyce Foundation, Alliance for Early Success and the McKnight Foundation. To view a full, in-depth analysis of each state and its policies, visit: www.newamerica.org/education-policy/from-crawling-to-walking/.



The West Virginia Board of Education voted recently to repeal and replace the current K-12 academic standards known as “Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives.” The vote followed a 30-day public comment period on a new set of standards known as the “West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards,” as recommended by state Supt. Michael Martirano.

The new set of standards, which take effect July 1, 2016, were developed based on findings presented by West Virginia University following the Academic Spotlight community review, which included input from more than 5,000 individuals and generated more than 250,000 individual comments.

From July through September 2015, the West Virginia Department of Education provided an online platform for West Virginia residents to review the current academic standards in English Language Arts and mathematics and provide specific feedback on how the standards could be improved. The new standards reflect feedback received through the Academic Spotlight process and are based on a rigorous, challenging and focused foundation.

“I believe this process was transparent, and I am proud of the work that has been done to develop a set of revised standards that are unique to West Virginia and developed with the input of our state residents and education experts,” Mike Green, president of the state board, said. “These proposed new standards not only increase rigor and ensure developmental appropriateness but also provide a foundation to ensure our students are equipped with the skills needed for college, careers and the 21st century world of work.”

Amid commendation for the new standards, Green vowed to continue to work closely with lawmakers and all stakeholders to ensure a world-class education system for all children in West Virginia.

“I celebrate this significant day for education in West Virginia and thank the citizens who took time to provide feedback.” Green said. “The state board is always open for public input, and I encourage continued engagement on all education issues in our state.”

Green also thanked West Virginia University, and specifically the College of Education and Human Services, for participating as a third party to research, assess and analyze data collected during the Academic Spotlight review.

“West Virginia University is committed to high-quality public education throughout the state, and the Academic Spotlight offered us a unique opportunity to demonstrate that commitment,” Dean Gypsy Denzine of the college said. “I believe the new set of standards align with higher education standards and career preparedness and will ensure that students in West Virginia are primed for future success.”

The board also voted to adopt a revised policy that streamlines the state requirements for testing students. The revised policy significantly decreases the amount of formal testing by eliminating social studies testing in all grades, eliminating testing in science in grades three, five, seven, eight, nine and 11 and removing the requirements to administer the ACT EXPLORE, ACT PLAN and ACT COMPASS assessments.



State Supt. Michael Martirano is reminding students that taking a computer science course can help meet their graduation requirements.

Since 2013, West Virginia Department of Education guidance states that an AP Computer Science course can qualify as a fourth-year math course requirement, which counts toward graduation from high school. This is ever more significant as emerging jobs in West Virginia require knowledge in areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Computer science jobs are found in a number of fields outside of information technology including manufacturing, health care, finance, public health and social science research.

“In order to ensure our students are prepared for the 21st century world of work, we must focus on the development of STEM-related skill sets,” Martirano said. “We know the jobs of the future are going to require critical thinking skills in the areas of math and science. I believe courses such as computer science can benefit all students regardless of what field they ultimately pursue.”

According to Code.org, a nonprofit organization committed to increasing access to computer science for students in the K-12 settings, computer science and programming develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, not simply use, new technologies.

“Investments in computer science education sustain American innovation. When students have access to these courses, they learn the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow,” Fred Humphries, Microsoft corporate vice president for U.S. government affairs, said. “West Virginia demonstrates leadership by making computer science courses count toward high school graduation and is reaffirming this policy during National Computer Science Education Week. We applaud West Virginia’s leadership on this important issue, in particular that of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, state board President Mike Green, and state Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano.”

For additional information on any of the above stories, contact Kristin Anderson at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or Kristin.Anderson@k12.wv.us.