By EARL RAY TOMBLIN
CHARLESTON -- The future success of West Virginia's families and communities will rely on the success of our education systems. Broad-based collaboration aimed at fostering supportive communities that advance student achievement is an essential component in promoting the economic and cultural vitality of our state.
Each of us has a responsibility in developing a statewide culture that values education and encourages the pursuit of advanced learning. More than 300 teachers, counselors, education administrators and community members recently convened in Charleston for the 2011 statewide Student Success Summit.
The event served as a platform for education experts, ranging from preschool teachers to college presidents, to join forces to address issues affecting student success and educational attainment. The Summit focused on developing seamless student support structures designed to help each and every student achieve his or her peak potential and encouraged participants to develop comprehensive systems designed to guide students from one level to the next.
Presentations and facilitated discussions centered on preventing high school dropout, increasing students' access to postsecondary education opportunities, and ensuring that students who begin college careers graduate in a timely manner with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the global workforce.
The State of West Virginia has made great strides toward facilitating student transitions and encouraging high levels of student attainment. The State now offers a free college- and career-planning website called the College Foundation of West Virginia, which is available at www.cfwv.com.
The site is designed to help students and families in the state plan, apply and pay for all forms of education and training beyond high school, and it allows students of all ages to create personalized career-development and college-planning portfolios.
West Virginia also has developed a comprehensive high school dropout prevention initiative that enlists the expertise and support of not only the education community but also the business and non-profit sectors. Research indicates that community and school collaboration is one of the most effective strategies for encouraging academic achievement. Because each community faces unique challenges and possesses different strengths, the initiative has expanded the state's innovation zone program to allow school and community coalitions to address the dropout issue by implementing local solutions to local problems. Our state is at the forefront of developing integrated and collaborative support systems to pinpoint early warning indicators and intervene with at-risk students before they disengage.
We also have led concentrated efforts to assist adults in returning to the classroom to earn the credentials needed to secure higher paying careers and cultivate 21st century skills. Through the development of flexible programs such as the Regents Bachelor of Arts and the Board of Governors Associate in Applied Science, we are able to offer adult students rigorous and relevant degree programs that fit within their already busy schedules.
These efforts will yield huge dividends for our citizens and our communities. By supporting student achievement and increasing access to postsecondary education, we can decrease economic inequality, encourage global competitiveness and provide greater opportunities. By tapping the enormous potential of our greatest resource - our people - West Virginia will continue to move toward a promising and bright future.
Tomblin is West Virginia's acting governor.