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The Frustrations of the WV Learn Course: Teacher Recertification and Workload Challenges in WV

Updated: Jun 19, 2023



It's been a year since taking the WV Learn course. I dug deep into why the WV Learn Course is the way it is. I talked to the West Virginia Department of Education and sent emails, hoping to get to bottom of why they make it so hard for teachers. And at the end, all they did was run me in circles and never gave any answers, just more phone numbers of people to call that had no idea why I was mad.


I took the course to get recertified to teacher in West Virginia and substitute.

You know what, as a substitute, I make about $17 an hour when it's said and done. I don't particularly like subbing. The parts I enjoy are seeing the staff and working with small groups. I loved the special education self-contained classes. But in a typical classroom, I felt like every day I went home drained, upset, and feeling like a failure because most of the day I was redirecting students, trying to get them on task, not accomplishing anything, and not being able to meet any of their needs. It overwhelms me and I just have to say, it’s not for me.


All that to say my Facebook Memories popped up with the post I made about the WV Learns course.


(This was the post)

Feb. 15, 2022


I will NEVER, I repeat NEVER take a free WVLearn course again to gain any type of credit.

They lured me in with the word Free but they didn’t tell me Free = unlimited headache for 6 weeks. Actually, 7 because they added a week!


You know why you’re losing teachers in West Virginia! Because of how dang hard you make it on people. And it’s not worth the pay or headache!!!!!


This course is six weeks long and just about every week I’ve been threatened to be kicked out of the course because of small details.


Literally, they say, either you fix this to how I want it or you will be marked as unsatisfactorily completing this portion of the assignment and will be removed from the class.

Any assignment the facilitator deems “unsatisfactory” is grounds for removal from the course. As well as, not being able to take any other free WVLearn courses for a year if you’re removed from a course.


Absolute nonsense.

The “my way or the highway attitude” is why teachers are taking the highway. West Virginia start caring about your teachers and valuing their time! Teachers already have zero extra hours in the day and you want them to deal with course facilitators that have zero flexibility?


I am not a full-time teacher. I left teaching because of its demand on my time. It is not an 8am - 4pm job. I haven’t taught in years. And I have no desire to be one because this course is just a reminder of how undervalued people are as teachers.


I simply want to sub a couple of days a week. Because our county is hurting for subs. Our community needs them. Teachers get sick and so do their children and there’s no one to cover their classes because there is a shortage of subs. I also want to review homeschool portfolios and as a certified teacher, I’ll be able to do that.


Dear teacher friends, You are rock stars!


You teach all day, do the extra duties, the lesson plans, the grading, the coaching, as well as care for your family and home.


I am so sorry that the state of West Virginia adds additional to your plate, calls it free, and demands that you should be grateful because they gave you something for free.


West Virginia Department of Education do better! Your teachers deserve it! Your state deserves it!


(End of Post)


Here is the last correspondence I had with the West Virginia Department of Education on Nov. 7, 2022.


Here is the response to the last email I sent them:

"Good afternoon. Thank you for voicing your concerns. I have forwarded your email to leadership."


Here is the last email I sent:


Hello,

I see that there are some new options for teachers to receive professional development. That’s wonderful. I had a very bad experience with the WV Learns course and have been hoping some change would happen.


I’ve been emailing ______ over the past few months about the WV Learns courses and sent a pretty detailed email, I’ll add it at the bottom of my message. But I’m concerned about the amount of time that is supposedly required according to ______, “Under WVBE policy, to receive three-hours for renewal credit a minimum of 45 hours of coursework is required.” She also said, “The 45 hours is based upon a review of Pierpont courses/credits that took place with HEPC and WVDE a few years ago.”


My question is, how long ago was that? Because I think your courses are outdated and also are wasting teachers time as well as money.


I’m so happy to see that some changes have been made, I hope that the WVDE can find a way to keep good teachers.


Here is the email I sent to _____ last month,


The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) needs to rethink how they are spending money on their WVLearns Professional Learning program’s three-credit hour course for educators seeking recertification or salary advancement. It is a hindrance to teachers who are already limited with time and adds unnecessary stress.


I hope to bring attention to one issue West Virginia teachers encounter. It is not a secret that West Virginia is currently lacking full-time, certified teachers for the classroom, as well as, substitute teachers.


I have a degree in Elementary Education and left teaching when my son was born. I let my teaching certification expire. When my son started attending public school I was encouraged to become a substitute teacher


Knowing that I needed to renew my certification I received information that I could take free courses on the WVDE’s WVLearns Professional Learning platform. Although it was free, it cost me a lot of time and added stress.


According to WVDE, “Participants should plan to spend a minimum of 6.5-7 hours of online/offline work each week they complete coursework.”


I am a stay-at-home mom with a part-time photography business. My only child is active in sports and I’m active in my church. I had more time than a full-time teacher with a family of more than one child. Teachers are also parents, grandparents, coaches, and involved in the community.


I found it extremely hard to manage this additional time. When I took the WVLearns course it was over a seven-week period, it has since changed to a self-paced class but continues to have the same amount of sessions.


The courses have contracted facilitators, they are not the course developers. According to WVDE, Grades of C (Complete) and I (Incomplete) are awarded for each session based on course participation and assignment completion. It was my experience that if my facilitator did not think I should receive a “C,” I would have to either redo the assignment and resubmit it or be dropped from the class.


After having to redo multiple assignments that did not meet my facilitator’s satisfaction, I asked, “Do you know what the other options for getting recertification to teach are? Are WV Learns courses my only free option? This course is requiring more of my time than I thought it would.”


My facilitator responded, “I honestly do not know about other options for recertification, other than enrolling in semester courses at colleges and universities. And, those courses are expensive, plus, they require more work than WV Learns. I know the courses seem intense at times, but honestly, seven weeks of graduate work is going to be intense. You can do this. While it is a lot of work, it is certainly a better/cheaper option than anything else I know about. Hang in there!”


After ranting on Facebook about my experience with the WVLearns course I learned I was not the only one unhappy with these courses. Multiple teachers commented about their frustration.


The part that aggravates me the most was there was another option. Although it was not free, it did not waste my time!


Shepherd University offers Professional Development in Education (EDPD). The tuition I paid was $177 for a 3-credit graduate-level EDPD class. I signed up for one of these classes while taking the WVLearns course. I participated in two 1-hour zoom sessions and wrote an email in response to the instructor’s questions. Then I was done. I received the same number of credits as I did with the 7-week WVLearns course, and it was only a few hours of my time.


The Shepherd EDPD class was informative, gave links to resources that could be used in the classroom, and was respectful of my time. It was also updated and relevant. I got more out of those 2-hours on zoom than I did with 7 weeks of work during the WVLearns course.

Another teacher also was getting their recertification took a different class with Shepherd University and also had a great experience.


I decided to reach out directly to the WVDE with some questions I had about the WVLearns courses. Here is some of the information that I was able to get back from WVDE via Facebook messenger: From July 1, 2021 – July 1, 2022, 6,544 participants completed courses; 1,240 participants received credits toward salary reclassification; 5,304 used course certificates for certification purposes; 362 (5% of all participants) were dropped from the course.


According to WVDE via Facebook messenger, the courses are reviewed and revised/updated on a three-year rotation. They also claim, “course feedback overwhelmingly positive. Constructive feedback is received and considered when courses go through revision cycle.”


From this information, I have some concerns. Over 6,500 teachers last year had to spend 6.5-7 hours for 7 weeks working on a WVLearns course. Is this the best way for teachers to be using their already limited time? If I was this frustrated as someone that didn’t have a full-time job, how are the full-time teachers that are in the classroom taking this course feeling?


You should not be asking teachers to find an additional 6.5-7 hours each week for 7 weeks of their life after they have already completed their degree and are qualified. It’s one thing if someone is pursuing a specific Master’s degree or certification. Yes, they would need to take a course that has a lot of information and requires more work. But, for someone that is just fulfilling the requirement of “six semester hours of appropriate college/university coursework reflecting a 3.0 GPA or WVDE eligible e-Learning coursework related to the public school program”, to renew their certification, 6.5-7 hours each week for 7 weeks is too much.


They have lives too! They have families! Teachers have 24 hours in their day just like everyone else.


The feedback I received from teachers was not at all “overwhelmingly positive”. I think after finishing their course, teachers were happy to finally be done with it and just clicked the satisfactory option on the end-of-course survey.


Over 300 teachers dropped the course. I don’t know if that is because they chose to drop the course or because they were forced to drop the course. I felt like I was threatened to be dropped from it every week.


After not completing an assignment to the facilitator's expectations the following email discussion occurred between myself and my facilitator,


“Jodie,

I know you are upset with me, but I am required, as a facilitator, to follow assignments as they are written, and that includes the rubrics. The rubrics are there to guide everyone, including me. Facilitators do not create the courses. Sometimes a template will ask for the same information more than once. There would be other ways to provide a reference to the WV Standards, also. You can keep all your essential questions, I merely asked you to add some questions that are open-ended and lead to higher thinking. I will refer you to the earlier readings that talk about rigor. Before I can score your edited template, I need you to remove any comments that are directed at how you feel about the assignment. You have a good WebQuest started. Many participants had to make edits. I try to keep those as private as possible. Remember, your edits need to be posted by 11:59 tonight. Thank you.”

My response was, “What happens if I don’t remove my comments/questions from the assignment?”


I was upset that all the assignments seemed redundant and were busy work. I felt I was wasting my time and it was stressing me out.


The facilitator’s response, “Well, the comments are not part of the actual assignment. It would not be accepted. If the assignment is incomplete after tonight, someone will probably drop you from the course. I want you to have a WebQuest that you can use someday. Your work is good, you were just asked to fulfill what the rubric requires.”

I am giving you these direct quotes from my email correspondence for you to hopefully feel some of the frustration I felt as a person with a bachelor’s degree plus 15-hours of graduate work and multiple military classes/courses under my belt. Of all the education and military classes I’ve taken, none have infuriated and wasted my time more than the WVLearns course.


I have been subbing a couple of days a week since the school year started. Just about every morning before school starts the principal makes an announcement, “This is my daily plea for anyone that is available and wants to cover a class during your planning. Let me know.” There are not enough teachers to go around and the ones that are there DON’T HAVE THE EXTRA TIME!!!!!


I spoke with someone yesterday that encountered the same frustrations as I did with the WVLearns course. He told me I had ruffled some feathers with my Facebook rant, but they were concerned, “What if they get rid of the free option altogether? Some teachers can’t afford to pay for a class.”


I reached out to the WVDE and asked some questions about the cost of the WVLearns program. The WVDE WVLearns Online Learning Manger and WVDE Office of Educator Development and Support responded, “Each WVLearns course costs between $2000-$6000 to develop, this is a one-time cost. There are currently 92 courses. Facilitators are paid $10.00 for each session completed by a course participant. This averages to $2000.00/year/facilitator. With approximately 60 currently active facilitators this averages between $120,000-$150,000/year.”


And additionally, “The platform, Canvas, on which WVDE professional learning is being housed, not including our courses, is shared with our courses. The total cost per year for the statewide professional learning platform is $65,000.”


With all the money going into this program, surely there is a way to not waste the time of everyone involved. Don’t waste the teachers' time, the facilitators' time, and the West Virginian’s money on something that is doing nothing but putting undue stress on teachers. Yes, it is free, but it doesn’t need to cost teachers 7 weeks of 6.5-7 hours of extra work. Does that extra work make them better teachers? Are these courses designed with the working teacher in mind? Please WVDE be realistic!


The WVDE needs to find out how to keep the teachers they have and not drive them away. There are more reasons teachers are leaving the classroom and this may not be one of them, but I will tell you it was almost a reason I didn’t re-enter the classroom as a substitute. It was almost the reason another teacher in my county almost stayed at his other full-time career, instead of going back to the classroom.


Quit making things harder than they need to be. Reevaluate the courses again, because whatever evaluations you’ve done in the past are flawed and are not helping West Virginia teachers the way you think. During a time when teaching morale is low, please don’t contribute to making it lower by requiring additional busy work to their lives.

I care about the full-time teachers and I know you do too. Please WVDE take a look at this issue and make it better for the teachers you have. Don’t take away the free option, but please make it better! I know you can do it!


Thank you,

Jodie Witmer




You know what's funny, I'm going to homeschool my son next year and with all the headache of getting recertified, I'm just going to use it to review homeschool portfolios.


I have dreams of starting my own tutoring business. A way for teachers to charge what they're worth, limit the size of their classes, and provide the curriculum they want to teach.


How much fun would teaching be if the teacher had that control?


It's just a dream today, but maybe next year it'll be a reality.


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