When I was appointed to the West Virginia Board of Education, I knew there was work to be done to ensure that West Virginia's children received the best education possible.
As president of the Board, I have had the opportunity to meet with educators, administrators, students and parents all around the Mountain State, and one thing is clear — the days of a one-size-fits-all approach to education are over. Our students have unique interests and aspirations, and if we are not supporting the unique goals of the child, then we are failing the child.
The West Virginia Board of Education placed its flagship policy — Policy 2510: Assuring the Quality of Education, Regulations for Education programs — on public comments at its meeting on Dec. 11, 2019. The public comment period is an important time for all stakeholders to submit comments that may affect the final policy. Among other revisions, one big change is added flexibility to counties in scheduling and graduation requirements. While there is no change to the 22 required credits for high school graduation, the policy transitions from four required social studies credits to three, but allows for a new "flex credit" in which students choose either an additional social studies or science course, career technical education course or a computer science course. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, counties now have the flexibility to personalize students' graduation requirements based on their interests and postsecondary plans. In other words, students will be able to take course work that is most relevant to their future plans.
This proposed change will allow schools to meet all students' needs and promote the individual needs of students around course work that is most relevant to their postsecondary aspirations. The proposed changes to the policy do not reduce or ease the stringent graduation requirements already in place, but instead bolster them with a focus on individualized learning and student success.
West Virginia's college-going rate for the 2017-18 school year was 52.6 percent, leaving 47.4 percent of students who are either entering the workforce, enlisting in the military or seeking advanced certification and credentials. Local school districts need the flexibility to address the postsecondary plans of all students, not just college-going students. Research shows that students engaged in relevant, meaningful and personalized education have better attendance and academic performance. The revisions to Policy 2510 allow for students to explore courses and topics that are relevant to their life post-graduation, while still receiving a strong foundation across subject areas.
In order to help as many students as we can truly succeed, we need to be meeting students where they are and providing meaningful instruction.
While the state had maintained the minimum 22 credits for graduation, counties may choose to exceed this requirement. This change is exactly what educators, administrators and even legislators have been asking for for years: giving counties, and those closest to their students, the opportunity to recognize and address their student needs at the local level.
The proposed changes to Policy 2510 stem from extensive research and many hours of communication in the field. I encourage all those interested in the changes to thoroughly read the policy, to consider the diversity of West Virginia's students and to comment on the policy by Jan. 24, 2020. The State Board will critically consider each comment received which may result in changes to the final policy.
Perry is president of the State Board of Education.