Advisory group addresses BOE

PARKERSBURG – Having parental involvement in a child’s education is paramount to his or her success in school, members of the Quality Schools Advisory Group told the Wood County Board of Education.

The group presented its 13-page report, resulting from a year and a half of work, to the board Wednesday evening detailing findings from discussions, surveys and other research with teachers and students gauging the quality of education being provided to local students.

The group’s mission is to participate in the development of continuous improvement initiatives in Wood County Schools and to strengthen the relationship between the school and the community.

The group is made up of local parents and grandparents as well as business officials, former educators and others from around the community who are concerned about the quality of education in local schools.

Elizabeth Strobl, member of the advisory board and a mother of four students in Wood County Schools, said it is the group’s belief that all students want to learn.

“To make significant educational strides in Wood County, our leaders need to be aware to pay attention to the learning culture,” she said. “All schools are unique and their cultures are unique.”

Some schools have positive cultures while other have negative cultures which impact student achievement, Strobl said.

“Wood County needs to develop a method to assess these culture differences in our schools and promote a best practice for improvement,” Strobl said. “As a parent and a concerned community member we would be interested in knowing which schools in our county have great cultures of learning.

“We want to take that and apply it countywide so all of our schools can achieve to their highest level.”

Parental involvement, including whether another family member is raising the children, remains a key component in the success of the student, the report noted.

“Decades of research show that the single most important element in a child’s education is parent involvement,” the report said. “Therefore, parents must be included as equal partners in developing both school and county level improvement efforts.

“Schools must launch persistent initiatives to attract widespread and active parent involvement,” the report said.

Board member Lawrence Hasbargen, a former principal, said having activities at the schools to bring the parents in is vital. He suggested doing a push to revitalize Parent Teacher Associations.

Many present commented on work Hasbargen did in bringing parents into the schools and engaging them in their child’s education.

“To me that was a big deal,” he said. “To get there we have got to have stakeholders involved.

“We just kept building and building. We shared things with parents and that got them involved. It can be done. You have to have that relationship to get that performance from the children,” Hasbargen said.

Of the students interviewed, representing middle school and high school students, the majority said they could learn more if their classes were more interesting; they could have more hands-on learning; if there was less standardized testing; had longer class periods; if class sizes were smaller; if students had more choice in what they were able to take; if first period could begin later in the day; and if there were no disruptions caused by cell phones, the report said.

“I think students know more than anyone that testing is just not learning and takes time away from learning,” said Woody Wilson, a retired U.S. History teacher and member of the advisory group.

Of teachers interviewed on what the impediments were to student learning, the majority said requirements from the federal, state and county levels interfere with their ability to teach; their salary is not appropriate for the work they do; time spent on standardized testing significantly reduces teaching time; parents are not involved in the child’s education; teachers are not valued by the administration; professional development programs are not relevant to what they teach; classes are overcrowded; and excessive student absences is a serious problem, the report said.

“I have heard a lot of people say ‘We can’t do it, because the state says … the federal government says,”‘ Wilson said. “Let’s all agree to eliminate ‘can’t’ from our vocabulary when it comes to improving our schools.”

Wilson said the advisory board will continue to offer help and insight into the problems facing Wood County Schools.

Board of education members commended the advisory board for its work and the energy it brought to the task. “I think if we don’t utilize their involvement then shame on us,” said Jimmy Asbury, board member.