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This editorial was originally published in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, and was distributed by The Associated Press.


Many of the woes in West Virginia’s public education system will be laid at the feet of COVID-19. The state has already seen that happen with the latest state assessment scores, as Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch has referred to 2020-21 as a “learning loss” year for students.

He’s absolutely right in one sense — COVID-19 and the remote platforms many counties utilized dealt a near knockout blow to our state’s public education system, with slightly more than one-fourth of all tested students showing proficiency last year in mathematics. But a look at the assessment data prior to 2020-21 shows West Virginia already was on the ropes when it came to measuring what students learn in class.

Consider these figures:

n For the 2016-17 school year, 34% of all tested students — those in grades three through eight and grade 11 — were proficient in mathematics. Proficiency in reading was at 48%.

n For the 2017-18 school year, math proficiency rose slightly to 37%, while reading proficiency fell to 45%. Science was added to testing that year, with 37% of tested students proficient.

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The following year, 2018-19, was the last year for testing prior to the pandemic, as testing for 2019-20 was canceled due to COVID-19.

n In 2018-19, for mathematics, 39% of tested students were proficient; for reading, that figure was 46%; and for science, one in three students met proficiency.

Then comes last year’s testing. Statewide, for 2020-21, student proficiency in math was 28%; reading, 40%; science, 27%.

Just what is the problem with our state’s education system? While numbers plummeted during COVID-19, let us not fool ourselves into believing scores were acceptable in prior years.

How can West Virginia reverse decades of population loss when the state can’t even come up with a good system to ensure our children are properly educated? Education is a key driver to improving a state’s economy; judging by these numbers, West Virginia has plenty of work to do.

The state must do better for its children.

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