Published Online: November 12, 2003
Published in Print: November 12, 2003, as State Journal


State Journal

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Everyone's a Winner

The West Virginia Department of Education is handing out awards to low-performing schools that apparently need a morale boost after falling short of federal standards under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The department is also recognizing schools that are doing well under the federal law's requirement that schools make "adequate yearly progress." But the awards boom has some critics saying the recognition is meaningless and costs money that should go toward fixing the schools that need help.

In all, the department will distribute framed certificates to 84 percent of the state's 728 public schools. In West Virginia, 433 schools made adequate yearly progress last school year, and 295 did not.

In the "West Virginia Achieves Recognition Tour," state board of education members or other officials are traveling to all counties in the state to hand out the certificates.

Besides the awards for schools that made adequate progress, others are going to schools that demonstrated "high" or "notable" improvement in scores in a subgroup of students, said Liza Cordeiro, a spokeswoman for the state department of education. Subgroups include students in special education, minority students, students from low-income families, and English-language learners.

"With NCLB we pointed out what was wrong with schools," Ms. Cordeiro said. "We want to make sure they know they are doing a good job. We believe success breeds success."

But others disagreed. Pete Thaw, a member of the Kanawha County school board thinks the resources are being misdirected.

"I think giving out these awards to critically deficient schools is ridiculous," Mr. Thaw said. "It's a feel-good award. It means nothing."

The certificates cost a total of about $9,000. But there were also travel costs for state board members to distribute the awards, Mr. Thaw said.

"How about putting the money into schools, hiring teacher's aides?" he said. "Our job isn't to make educators feel good, it's to educate students."

Ms. Cordeiro said the cost of the certificates amounted to $12 a school.

"We hear those criticisms, but we are not stopping," she said. "Our schools are well worth $12 for a certificate. We should recognize them for doing so well. It's looking at the positive, instead of just looking at the negative."

—Lisa Goldstein

Vol. 23, Issue 11, Page 14

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