Ashton Marra Published

Common Core: Educators Say Yes, Lawmakers Aren't Sure


Members of the state Board of Education heard directly from teachers this month about the development and the implementation of the state’s Next Generation Standards. Those standards are West Virginia’s version of Common Core.

“So, today is a moment for us to pause as a state to reflect on where we are with our education reform and our educational progress,” State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano said during the board’s meeting Wednesday.

He took over the job in September of this year, but before he even came to West Virginia, big changes were in the works.

During the 2013 legislative session, Governor Tomblin called for and lawmakers passed a bill focused on reforming the state’s failing education system based on an audit conducted by an outside organization in 2012.

It was in 2010 though when an even bigger change happened. That’s when the state board voted to change the education content standards of the West Virginia by adopting Common Core.

Since its adoption there has been pushback from West Virginians, including state lawmakers.

“I think most people think that we had our standards and were moving a long just fine and then this Common Core thing came along and we just threw ours out and swallowed the Common Core without even really thinking about it,” Board member Wade Linger said.

Instead, the Department of Education brought together a group of 100 teachers from all subject areas and grades levels, from all parts of the state to study the national Common Core standards and adapt them to be West Virginia specific.

“We’ve always had standards. I’ve been teaching for 27 years. I have not taught a single day without standards,” Teresa Hammond told the Board Wednesday. She was part of the group of 100 teachers.

In 2010, Hammond was teaching the curriculum the state had in place called the 21st Century Standards. Hammond told the board as she and her fellow educators started delving into the process, they saw major similarities between 21st Century and Common Core standards.

The teachers found 80 percent of West Virginia’s 21 Century English Language Arts standards and 73 percent of the Math standards aligned perfectly with Common Core.

The changes they did have to make, Hammond told the board, were mostly with progression, making sure children were learning the right concepts at the right ages.

Hammond said the new standards are more rigorous, but they are also more relevant and make what the students learn mean something in the world they live in.

But state lawmakers are less sure about Common Core, Republican Senator Donna Boley perhaps more than any other.

With the change in legislative power, Boley will become the new Vice Chair of the Senate’s Education Committee, an influential post. She’s made it clear in the last few weeks that the standards will be a focus.

“What I’m saying is let’s look at it, maybe we’re wrong in opposing,” she said in an interview earlier this month.

“Let’s discuss it openly and see what we can do. Maybe we can fix some of it, but maybe we have to throw it out and start over again.”

Linger said he and other members of the board, including Board President Gayle Manchin, have been meeting informally with lawmakers to open a dialogue about Common Core.

“I would say that at least 90 percent of the people who are against the new standards don’t know what they are. They’ve read something about some other states or they heard something,” he said, “but if they saw what we have, they’re great standards and if we just follow through with it and give it time to show that it works, we’re going to see our student achievement rise and we’re going to get off the bottom of the list.”

Republican lawmakers have not yet released their education agenda for the upcoming session, but Linger said the board intends to work closely with both the House and Senate to keep West Virginia’s education system on the right track.