The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

June 17, 2013

Education standards facing backlash

Opponents: New benchmarks in W.Va. strip schools, counties of local oversight

CHARLESTON — West Virginia is sticking with new standards for math, reading and writing in public schools, but faces opposition fueled by the tea party movement, which believes the benchmarks are part of an attempted federal takeover of local education authority.

The state board of education continues to pursue what are known as the Common Core State Standards, with a goal of phasing them in by the 2014-15 school year. Adopted by 45 states so far, they attempt to set detailed benchmarks for students that are clear to parents and uniform across the differing school systems and districts.

For eighth-grade geometry, for instance, the standards call for students to solve real-world math problems involving the volume of cylinders, cones and spheres. By the end of high school, meanwhile, students should be able to analyze a Shakespeare play, among other works of literature. The standards envision first-graders writing book reports that explain the student’s opinion while also featuring a beginning and an end.

West Virginia is calling its version the Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives. Aided by the state Department of Education, the 55 county school systems already have adapted them to kindergarten coursework as well as to the first, fourth, fifth and ninth grades.

The state board voted at its meeting last week to open a 30-day public comment period for some of the policies changed as a result of the emerging standards. One policy change revamps math benchmarks, while the other updates standards for second-grade reading and writing.

But the board also heard from a delegation led by state Sen. Donna Boley that wants the standards scrapped. Among other concerns, the opponents alleged that Common Core strips schools and counties of local oversight while handing over more control to the federal government. They also object to the collecting of student data in the name of assessing the standards’ performance.

“We’re turning our education system into a national education system,” Boley said Friday.

Backed by tea party and conservative groups, such critics have emerged throughout the states that have adopted the standards. Besides trying to repeal the benchmarks, Common Core opponents have sought to have them de-funded or delayed. A Pleasants County Republican, Boley led fellow GOP senators during this year’s session in seeking legislative scrutiny of the Common Core standards. She expects the topic to be studied during the Legislature’s monthly interim meetings.

Supporters of the Next Generation benchmarks include a veteran teacher from Boley’s district. Kriss Bodnar taught in Pleasants County schools for 36 years, and explains the standards in a video posted on the state Department of Education website. She helped develop the standards through an effort headed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers that began before President Barack Obama took office.

“The standards themselves are a state-based initiative. (The multistate groups) were the driving force to gather the people to write the standards,” Bodnar told The Associated Press. “Nationwide, all students would be striving for the same goals as they go through their education.”

Now retired, Bodnar said the intent was to have concise, explicit and easy-to-understand goals of what the students should achieve by the end of each grade year, from kindergarten through high school. Unaware of Boley’s objections, Bodnar said the biggest hurdle may be helping teachers adjust their classroom approach to standards-based learning.

“The changes aren’t really that dramatic,” Bodnar said. “There are perhaps more expectations of kids, and more focus on what students need to do to improve achievement.”

Associate State Superintendent Robert Hull said the opponents may be confusing standards with curriculum.

“That’s still locally driven,” Hull said. “The curriculum is all about how we are going to get there and what materials we are going to use.”

Hull said he’s also heard all manner of rumors about the data collection, very little of it true.

“The information we’re talking about is nothing more than what we’ve always collected from students,” Hull said. “The schools and the district own the data, and it is not shared outside of them. We’ll know on a state level how schools and districts perform.”

Critics of Common Core have had some successes elsewhere. Indiana has blocked the Common Core phase-in from continuing there for one year, pending a review. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order last month barring the collection of such information as religious and political affiliations of students and their families. The Republican governor noted that such personal information is not currently being collected, but said he wanted to guard individual rights.

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Woman convicted in teen’s slaying moved

    A Monongalia County teenager has been transferred to a state prison to complete her sentence for the slaying of another teenager.
    The Lakin Correctional Center near Point Pleasant said Friday Rachel Shoaf has been booked at the Division of Corrections prison. Shoaf turned 18 last month and had been held in a juvenile facility.

    July 26, 2014

  • Board suspends clinic operator’s license

    A West Virginia board Friday suspended the license of the operator of a pain management clinic where investigators found syringes were being reused. It was the second disciplinary action involving the doctor’s license within a decade.

    July 26, 2014

  • Candidates: Leave global warming debate to scientists

    Two West Virginia congressional hopefuls said during their first candidate forum matchup Thursday that the global warming debate is better left to scientists.
    Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney added that other countries should step up in reducing carbon emissions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lawsuit filed over Dirty Girl Mud Run

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn’t be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVa. man sues GM over wife's death

    A West Virginia man has filed a lawsuit against General Motors Corp., claiming a defective ignition switch in a Chevrolet Cobalt caused a 2006 accident that killed his pregnant wife.

    July 24, 2014

  • Feds commit to health studies on spilled chemical

    After largely dismissing the possibility of long-term health problems, federal officials will conduct more studies on chemicals that spilled into West Virginia’s largest drinking water supply in January.
    In the next two months, federal health officials are also heading back to West Virginia.

    July 24, 2014

  • Park Service assesses impact of W.Va. attractions

    Four National Park Service attractions in West Virginia drew a total of 1.5 million visitors last year.

    July 23, 2014

  • This weekend's 'Dirty Girl' race canceled

    Organizers of a Charleston running event that was canceled for this weekend says it won’t issue refunds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Reporter heard truck backfiring, not gunshot

    Similar sounds in different circumstances create different reactions. That is so for WVVA reporter Annie Moore, who last Monday told police someone fired a gun at her while she was shooting file footage in the area of a recent murder.

    July 19, 2014

  • Cornhole champions being decided in Charleston

    Cornhole, the strange-sounding game made popular in backyards and at football tailgate parties, is taking on a serious side this week.
    The American Cornhole Organization will crown its world champions as about 380 competitors from 17 states vie for $10,000 in prize money in singles and doubles events.

    July 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads