October 25, 2014

Manchin discusses education challenges during visit to Liberty High School | Clarksburg Exponent

CLARKSBURG — Sen. Joe Manchin spoke to Harrison County students Friday about education challenges and what he could do to facilitate solutions.

Manchin, D-W.Va., visited Liberty High School, along with Harrison County Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin and school board members Kristen Messenger and Frank Devono Jr.

High school and middle students, teachers and administrators from around the county were invited to participate in the roundtable discussion.

“Your generation will be challenged to remain the superpower of the world. ... Productivity and the quality of education will determine that,” Manchin said.

Students addressed their concerns about several issues, including college debt, social media, standardized testing and year-round school.

Manchin said the PROMISE Scholarship can provide up to $4,200 a year in college funding. It was necessary to cap the award because the scholarship program was going broke, he said.

Students should look at schools that offer the degree they want and investigate all grants, loans and scholarships available, he said.

“Be very smart about college debt. It will affect your entire life,” Manchin said. “You can’t refinance student debt. I’m trying to change that to take advantage of the markets and refinance loans.” 

One student said many teenagers are not aware of what’s available at West Virginia colleges and that many more are intimidated by the college application process.

Manchin said he would work with the state Higher Education Policy Commission to come up with a consolidated website to evaluate every college in the state, as well as a one-stop financial aid website.

A teacher stressed the need to target middle schoolers when it comes to planning for college.

Mountaineer Middle School will host a Career Day on Nov. 13 that will do just that, as well as feature other career options for students to consider after graduation.

Superintendent Manchin reported that a Grading Policy Committee is looking at the rule that exempts students from taking exams if the student has good grades and attendance.

Sen. Manchin said students can’t take an exam because of that policy, and then many of them don’t make it in college.

He said he supports waivers for teachers, administrators and counties to try new approaches to make education better.

“We have broad flexibility,” Superintendent Manchin told the audience. “There is certain criteria, but we have full authority of how we get there. Tell us what you need.”

Much concern was voiced about the integrated math courses that are part of the Common Core education standards.

“We’ll be competing globally,” Superintendent Manchin said in response. “There are certain standards you should have as we expand Common Core.”

The senator also broached the subjects of gun control, minimum wage and cell phones in school. 

“It is not guns that kill people, but people who kill people. I support responsible gun ownership,” he said.

Sen. Manchin said he believes cell phones in class are detrimental to the teaching and learning process and that more counties should consider year-round school.

“It is nine weeks on and three weeks off for continuity of what you learn. It is a total of 36 weeks,” he said.

Criminal background checks should be mandatory for all personnel in schools, Manchin said. One teacher remarked that instituting a drug test would make it difficult to find teachers for some schools.

“People are leaving the teaching profession. ... Empower me to do my job. ... Raise the value and compensation of teachers,” remarked another educator.

Superintendent Manchin commended the students’ insights into the challenges of the education system.

Messenger told the students it is her goal to get more high school students to take college freshman algebra, because not doing so is the No. 1 reason students don’t make it through the first year of higher education.

By:  Darlene Swiger