By February 16, 2017 Read More →

Education remains hot topic in Legislature

By DANYEL VANREENEN

The Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Education has been a central issue of concern for many state representatives since the legislative session began last week. Many representatives have called for a better educated work force in West Virginia to combat some of the struggles ailing the state.

In response, bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to discontinue the use of Common Core standards in the state education system with support from local representatives. Delegate Michael Folk, R-Berkeley, and Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, introduced the bill to the House, and Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, and Senator Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, were among those who introduced a similar bill to the Senate. Representatives from other parts of the state have also proposed bills to effectively end the use of Common Core standards and prohibit the use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and require schools to use other methods of measuring student progress.

In effect, the bills would give more power to the local school systems and to the state to determine the best method of measuring student achievement and assessment, according to Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, chairman of the education committee.

Espinosa said the education committee and the broader collection of House representatives are still assessing the bills introduced.

“There’s widespread agreement that Common Core standards are not a good fit for West Virginia schools,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa said House representatives are watching what approach the Senate takes in regards to education bills and the Common Core as well. In general, however, Espinosa felt like the Legislature is moving in the right direction for West Virginia schools.

Manny Arvon, superintendent of Berkeley County schools, said he isn’t a proponent of Common Core standards either. Arvon felt that the education of students is the responsibility of state and local government rather than federal government.

“I’d like teachers that are in classrooms with students every day to have an input into standards and assessments,” Arvon said.

Patrick Blanc, assistant superintendent of Jefferson County schools, said he thinks the current form of assessment set high standards that demanded higher order thinking from students. However, Blanc said he is interested to see what the Legislature would come up with in terms of replacing Common Core and in terms of the budget.

“I think the budget will have a big impact on our schools,” Blanc said.

Espinosa said the legislature still has a lot to contemplate over the next 60 days. From issues like Common Core assessments and standards to the current budget crisis, Espinosa said the House has ambitious plans.

“We’re hoping to at least have an outline for the House budget proposal in the next few weeks,” Espinosa said. “I think we have some good Legislature coming up.”

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