Education reform

The following editorial appeared in The Journal of Martinsburg on Dec. 29:

West Virginia legislators probably are still opening the Christmas present they received from the state Board of Education, trying to determine whether it is what they really wanted or the equivalent of a lump of coal.

Just days before Christmas, state board members voted unanimously to eliminate the so-called Common Core curriculum in mathematics and English/language arts. That means standards teachers throughout the state have devoted an enormous amount of time and energy preparing for and implementing are out the window.

Or does it?

Common Core, the program pushed hard by the federal government, has been exceedingly controversial in West Virginia. Earlier this year, legislators tried but failed to pass a bill that would have directed the state board to stop using Common Core.

Then, after dismal results on standardized tests administered last spring, state education officials saw the handwriting on the wall. About a month ago, they released revised math and English/language arts curriculum documents.

But some observers said changes from what was in Common Core were minimal. Not enough, said some lawmakers.

No doubt they and members of their staffs will devote a substantial amount of time to studying what the state board adopted on Dec. 17.

It certainly includes some changes sought by lawmakers. It also does away with some standardized testing – a real gift to many teachers and students.

A few legislators already have said that if the board’s action falls short of abandoning Common Core entirely, a bill ordering just that will be passed.

If such legislation is proposed, it should be specific rather than sweeping. It should cite exact wording lawmakers want changed in the new standards, along with what is to replace the verbiage.

And the changes should be proposed very early in the 60-day legislative session, to allow for consultation with the state Department of Education – and reaction from the public. One big complaint about Common Core has been that many West Virginians felt it was something the federal government shoved down our throats, with help from the state Department of Education.

That mistake should not be allowed to occur again, with legislators and the state DOE blamed this time.



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