Need to reinforce system before we start to reform it

It may be more an issue of reinforcing the state’s public education system, rather than reforming it.
No, that’s not necessarily a call for filling the hundreds of vacancies in classrooms across West Virginia.
Nor is it a cry for spending more money on new locks and cops in public schools.
Judging by more than 5,000 students’ responses and hundreds more by parents and community members, in a report released last week, the real issue is far more complicated.
That report is the result of a series of public forums around the state and online surveys overseen by the state Department of Education.
“It is apparent more needs to be done to address the consequences of poverty and the opioid crisis on West Virginia’s children,” the report says
Academics are apparently taking a backseat to frequent classroom disruptions, lack of respect for teachers, mental health issues, harassment and bullying, and substance abuse.
How any student performs at school is relative to their circumstances at home. If things are out of control at home things will often be out of control at school.
To the Legislature’s credit, it did acknowledge this issue of the need for more student support in its failed SB 451.
That bill allocated $25 million to be distributed evenly among the state’s 55 counties for each district’s support personnel of choice, be it a counselor, psychologist, nurse or social worker.
Yet, though that $25 million breaks down to about $455,000 for each county, and in the case of some counties is probably adequate, in others it falls short of what’s needed.
Spread across 10,000 students, as in Monongalia County, it would help matters, but that still breaks down to a 1:1,000 ratio, excluding existing support personnel.
The level of classroom disruptions, mental health issues and bullying are probably all subject to debate and further study. Yet, they are no secret. But what this report — West Virginia’s Voice — points to is this kind of behavior is far more prevalent than anyone wants to believe.
That’s no knock on teachers and school administrators. Teachers and staff recognize aberrant  behavior, but most are not qualified to assess such behavior or treat it.
Especially those children and teenagers who are at high risk at home or at school or who may potentially even be violent.
It’s uncertain what improvements or not to public education will emerge when the Legislature resumes its special session on public education
However, it’s clear teachers need more help to cope with today’s challenges in their classrooms.
As do many students who act up in hopes someone in Charleston will listen.

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