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Address K-12 Education 'Emergency,' West Virginia Told

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The first step toward improving West Virginia's higher-education system must be to address the "emergency" facing the state's elementary and secondary schools, a national education-policy group concludes in a new report.

"The quality of higher education can rise no higher than the quality of the public schools," the report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching asserts. "If there is a failure to give young children the tools they need academically to succeed, it is almost impossible fully to compensate for the deficiencies later on."

The strongly worded 51-page report, which focuses on ways to consolidate and improve state colleges and universities, was released Feb. 6, just days after West Virginia's massive financial problems forced spending cuts in education and other areas. State aid for public schools and higher education was reduced by 6 percent, while spending for other agencies was slashed by 10 percent. (See Education Week, Feb. 8, 1989.)

Carnegie researchers prepared the comprehensive higher-educa8tion plan for the Sarah and Pauline Maier Foundation, a Charleston, W.Va.-based philanthropy that seeks to enhance educational opportunities in the state.

'Severe' Consequences Seen

"The harsh truth is that an emergency exists in West Virginia's schools and unless the challenge is vigorously met the consequences will be severe," the report warns.

"West Virginia must move urgently to strengthen precollegiate education," it says. "Unless corrected, deficiencies in the schools surely will undermine the quality of higher education, leaving students civically and economically unempowered."

The report urges the state to increase financial support for public schools, boost teacher salaries, and strive to raise the proportion of students completing high school to at least the national average by the year 2000.

In addition, it calls on the state's colleges to work cooperatively with schools in efforts to improve the performance of both students and teachers.

"In the renewal of the public schools," it states, "West Virginia's colleges have a crucial role to play."

The report recommends, for example, that colleges organize summer seminars for teachers and establish institutes to assist them in improving students' writing skills. It also seeks establishment of a statewide program to attract outstanding students to careers in teaching.--nm

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