Updated: Jun 26, 2020
June 25, 2020 (Morgantown, WV) - West Virginia Academy released a report on two surveys that the organization conducted among parents and students in Monongalia, Preston, and Marion counties on the topics of public education and school choice. The surveys asked several questions to assess satisfaction levels with current education options, identify unmet needs in public education, and inquire as to preferences for school choice and interest in enrollment in a charter school option. The results of the survey indicate that there are significant unmet needs within the public education system in the Greater Morgantown Area as well as substantial support for the establishment of charter schools among parents. Approximately one in three parents in Monongalia and Marion counties and two in three parents in Preston county support the establishment of a charter school in their community. Projections based on responses of parents indicating they would enroll their child in a charter school suggest that thousands of children in the Greater Morgantown Area would seek to enroll in a charter school if one were established in their community.
Combining interest levels with total student populations indicates that the most students would enroll from Monogalia County, which makes Morgantown the optimal location in the region for establishing a charter school. Projections based on the number of students in the households of parent respondents suggest that as much as 24% of the student population in Monongalia County would seek to enroll if a charter school were established in their community. Based on selection concerns specific to the nature of the survey and attrition due to travel time to the school, the 24% figure should be viewed as an upper-bound projection for enrollments in Monongalia County. This projection provides strong evidence that a charter school would foster substantial community interest, but the projection does not take into account attrition that would naturally arise based on travel distance to the school. However, with over ten thousand students in Monongalia County public schools, even a small fraction of this level of interest would result in sufficient enrollments to sustain a robust charter school in the area.
The findings of our survey are consistent with a 2019 survey as reported by MetroNews West Virginia. That survey found that about half of West Virginia citizens are dissatisfied with public education and 35% support charter schools while 40% oppose them, with the balance undecided. Fewer than half of parents in Monongalia and Preston Counties indicated they oppose charter schools and many are undecided. The findings of our survey refutes special interest groups claims of widespread opposition to charter schools. Parents who support charter schools in Monongalia County are clearly not alone and if a charter school were established the survey results indicate that it would be immediately viable.
Survey respondents' overall satisfaction with education options lags behind the national average and the significant majority of parents and students identified multiple aspects of public education in need of improvement. The top six responses by parents identifying areas of greatest need for improvement were: (i) resources and classroom aids for teachers, (ii) curriculum design and instructional delivery in STEM topics, (iii) experiential learning and field trips, (iv) curriculum design and instructional delivery for classes supporting reading comprehension and writing, (v) facilities including classrooms and school grounds, and (vi) support and options for children with disabilities. Students responses also identified experiential learning and field trips, classroom and teacher resources, and support for students with disabilities as areas in most need of improvement, but did not include curriculum design and instructional delivery or facilities in their top six. Instead students identified offerings of extra-curricular activities and team sports, enrichment classes like art, music, and physical education, and outcomes on standardized tests and college entrance exams as aspects of public education in the top six areas in most need of improvement. Taken together, these responses indicate that there are unmet needs in the public education system in the Greater Morgantown Area and that there is general consensus among parents and students as to the aspects of public education that stand in the greatest need of improvement.
Some of the key features of charter schools directly address the areas of greatest concern raised by parents and students in the survey. Charter schools have greater flexibility to allocate resources to the classroom and teachers by adopting flatter organizational structures that trim administrative bloat and place more funding in the classroom. Charter schools are uniquely positioned to innovate with respect to curriculum delivery and expand on experiential learning opportunities and field trips. Charter schools can also diversify the way in which team sports and enrichment classes like art, music and physical education are administered.