- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Jan. 13

The Exponent-Telegram of Clarksburg on new testing requirements the West Virginia Board of Education is considering:

The fact that the West Virginia Board of Education is considering new testing requirements for certain high school classes is encouraging news.

After several years of complaints about standardized testing and how they are implemented, the board is considering linking new end-of-the-year tests to not only student and school assessment, but also to the individual student’s grade point average.

In other words: Students should be compelled to care about the test, when in the past they knew it didn’t affect their letter grade or GPA.

Outgoing State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said the new assessment method is needed because study of past results showed students were rushing through, not being focused on doing well.

“I don’t know whether it’s based on the ability of our students, or they just did not take the exam serious,” Martirano said. “That is very disheartening for us.”

The veteran educator said the tests would be used as a tool to help overall educational performance.

“We would look at it as other ways to provide direct feedback to our teachers so that we can see immediate improvement in terms of their abilities, and truly understand the abilities of our children.”

The tests would be developed using the standards designed by state education officials. This is now encouraged under a new federal law that allows states to deviate from past national standards.

“I’m about taking full advantage of the federal flexibility that allows us to customize our own set of assessments to a high level of standards,” Martirano said.

The proposals, which were put out for public comment after apparent unanimous voice votes, also includes new forms of testing for third- through 8th-grade, as well as testing of 9th-, 10th- and 11th-grade students.

Under the proposal, the new testing won’t go into effect until the 2018-19 school year. Until then, the current Smarter Balanced assessments would be in place.

The goal is to eventually roll assessment testing into an end-of-the-year final exam.

“Let’s use that final exam, beef that up with the level of consistency in our state from every school in the state, so we have those results to compare from county to county,” Martirano said.

We believe the board and Martirano are charting a prudent path for the state educational system. Making tests that assess not only students, but the system, so that those taking it see the importance of doing their best only makes sense if we want a true gauge of their performance level.

State officials should move quickly toward passage and implementation.

Online: https://www.theet.com/

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Jan. 17

The Intelligencer of Wheeling on why certain drug statistics should be released to the public:

Substance abuse is more than a problem in our area. It has become a deadly, life- and family-wrecking epidemic. Yet outside of law enforcement, few people comprehend its scope.

Just in Belmont County, heroin is causing nearly one overdose a day, county Drug Task Force head John McFarland estimates. He is compiling statistics in the hope of releasing a report to the public.

If such information is to be provided to area residents, it may have to come from local law enforcement or public health officials. Neither our states nor the federal government do a very good job of compiling and releasing statistics on drug abuse. For example, in both our states, residents had to wait until well into last year to learn how many overdoses had been reported in 2015.

One report from Ohio officials focused on mixing the deadly additive fentanyl to heroin. Released in late August, it relied on 2015 statistics.

In both West Virginia and Ohio, officials should be collecting and releasing drug abuse statistics on a monthly basis. Within days after the end of a month, we can learn how much money our states collected in dozens of categories of taxes. Why is it not possible to provide similar information quickly on a deadly epidemic?

Online: https://www.theintelligencer.net/

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Jan. 17

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on Radon Action Month:

Mid-Ohio Valley homeowners should take heed of the reminder from the American Lung Association that January is Radon Action Month, and there are steps everyone can take to reduce the risks associated with the gas.

“You can’t see, taste or smell radon, but it is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, which is the top cancer killer,” said Emily Lee, the Vice-President of Mission Services of the American Lung Association in Ohio. ” . Testing is easy and it’s the only way for people to know how serious the risk of exposure is.”

It is estimated 21,000 people die every year from lung cancer caused by exposure to radon. Yet, most people do not give it a second thought. Still others take for granted that if a home has been tested once, and passed, they are safe.

One employee in this newsroom got personal experience to the contrary when trying to purchase a home. The home received a clean bill of health when the previous owners had it tested, during their own purchasing process. When it was tested again at the request of the next potential purchaser, radon was present in dangerous levels. A radon mitigation system was installed.

Structures and soil conditions change. A home that does not have a mitigation system, or has not recently been tested, should be tested for radon, for the safety of everyone occupying the home. Home testing kits are available, but the test can also be performed by a professional who might then be able to install a mitigation system, if needed.

Homes are not the only structures radon can invade, however. The American Lung Association also recommends speaking with officials to be sure testing has been conducted in schools, childcare facilities, hospitals . and buildings in which people spend long hours. After all, some folks spend more time in their offices than they do their own homes.

Lee summed it up quite well, “Because most of us keep our homes closed up in colder weather, January provides a great time to test for radon. It’s something every home and business owner . should do.”

Online: https://www.newsandsentinel.com/

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