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A tale of two rankings: Mon Schools officials want to delve into the numbers from two recent quality of life surveys for the classroom

Mountaineers, by literal definition, have to keep climbing.

Metaphorically, however, planting the flag in triumph at the peak can sometimes be akin to setting off an avalanche below.

Translation: Don’t get too comfortable — because there’s always going to be something.

Two recent WalletHub studies presenting snapshots of education in West Virginia bear that out.

WalletHub is an online firm that tracks quality-of-life metrics across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

When it comes to classroom quality of life across West Virginia’s school systems, the final results of those rubrics can be as just as rough and varied as the state’s terrain itself.

Last week, the firm released a study on overall quality of the nation’s school systems this past academic year, and the Mountain State notched No. 47 on the list.

That ranking comes in below South Carolina and just ahead of Arizona, Louisiana, Alaska and New Mexico.

Neighboring Virginia and Maryland, in contrast, were near the top of the list in overall quality, at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. They were just below top-three Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.

On Tuesday, though, the Mountain State emerged near the top of that metaphorical mountain.

A WalletHub study on early childhood education showed West Virginia at No. 9 overall in the nation.

That ranking is based on its share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-kindergarten and pre-kindergarten special education offerings, along with Head Start, the federal program for low-income families.

Donna Talerico, who serves as Monongalia County’s deputy superintendent of schools, said the latter ranking is a given for West Virginia.

“We’ve had universal pre-K in the state for at least 15 years,” she said, “so I would expect us to perform well as a state there.”

That’s the Top 10, though.

What about the Bottom 5?

Once the back-to-school bustle settles down, Talerico wants to take the time to delve into the first study — to see how Mon County compares under a more magnified WalletHub lens.

Especially, she said, since everyone is going into a school year that will see the inaugural launch of the state’s first-ever charter schools.

“I don’t want to say we’re an outlier,” she said, referring to her district, “but we that’s what we are.”

Mon’s school district as a whole regularly makes the regional “Best Of,” lists, she said.

Its high school graduates regularly go on to Ivy League schools and other marquee institutions.

Talerico knows and appreciates that Mon’s district fares better than many in the Mountain State.

Its voters are traditionally generous with the district at the polls, regularly voting in the affirmative for an excess levy for education that brings and additional $30 million, or better, into classrooms.

Still, though, there’s the daily uphill trudge that simply comes from living in West Virginia.

That means generational poverty.

And, numbers of school systems saddled with century-old buildings and budgets stretched tighter than teak wood.

Does a ZIP code always mean socioeconomic destiny?

“That’s where the challenge comes in with a lot of districts,” she said.

“We get great support from our community with the levy,” she continued. “We have a strong board and strong superintendent. And our teachers are top-notch.”

That’s not gloating, she said. That’s being grateful.

The levy, in part, helps pay the salaries that keep the district competitive, she said.

What works in Mon County, though — in a district that’s also home to the state’s flagship university, she said — won’t necessarily work in a southern coalfield county that may have seen its best economic days in the 1960s.

Resources and management, she said.

“Dollars aren’t the answer, unless the allocation is well-thought,” the deputy superintendent said.

“I’m biased to Mon County, obviously, but we need to look at the entire state, and all our schools, so we can climb out of that 47th ranking.”

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