Editorial: Education may be most critical issue for region
Business leaders from around the state will gather this week at The Greenbrier resort for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting.
And as Chamber President Steve Roberts puts it, the top topics are "Energy, Education & Elections."
It is hard to imagine a year when energy and politics were not top of mind for the state chamber, but it is encouraging to see that raising the bar for education is part of the program, too.
Friday morning, the group is planning a symposium program called "Why West Virginia's Future Depends on an A+ Education System."
The panel will feature state Board of Education President Gayle Manchin and the new state superintendent, Dr. Michael Martirano, as well as several other educators and state board members.
The future of the energy industry is certainly a critical issue for West Virginia, but one can argue that the state's struggle to produce a more educated population and more educated workforce is an even greater obstacle to growth and development.
When it comes to education, there are plenty of scores and numbers that can sometimes be confusing. But the most basic statistic probably tells the story best. West Virginia ranks 50th in the percentage of adults who finished college, 49th in the percentage with an advanced degree and 43rd in the percentage of high school graduates. Kentucky is only slightly better, ranking 47th on college degrees, 32nd on advanced degrees and 47th on high school degrees. Ohio is much more in the middle on all of those rankings.
Those low education levels mean that when businesses that need educated workers are looking for locations, West Virginia and Kentucky often do not even make the long list, much less the short list. It can also make it hard for businesses already in the states to grow.
Getting more students through college and community college and expanding adult education are essential parts of changing those numbers. But the biggest piece of the puzzle is raising student achievement on the elementary and secondary level.
The ACT test report that came out this month shows the state has a long way to go. This is the standardized test for college entrance that most students in our region take, and it tells a lot about whether students are ready for college or community college.
West Virginia's overall average score remains below the national average and has not improved in the last several years. Moreover, the report shows that only 19 percent of the Mountain State students who took the test are ready for college in all four of the test areas -- English, reading, math and science.
We hope the chamber symposium and the fresh leadership on the state level will dig into what needs to be done and how quickly schools can improve. Because the title of the session is right on target -- "West Virginia's Future Depends on an A+ Education System."
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.