State officials need to be smart on Common Core

An editorial from The Journal

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — State Board of Education members are right to back away from wholesale adoption of national Common Core standards in West Virginia public schools. No one-size-fits-all education reform package permits the flexibility teachers and school administrators need to do their jobs effectively.

Common Core is meant as a national blueprint for what students should be taught. While proponents insist its use is voluntary, the federal government can use its power over education funding to punish school districts and states that do not fall into line.

Much about the Common Core standards could be used as a basis from which educators can craft their own curriculum and testing programs. But a take-it-or-leave-it approach simply is not prudent.

On Friday, Board of Education members voted to eliminate standardized testing on social studies in public schools and to cut back on science tests. It was explained that will address concerns that students and teachers spend too much time preparing for standardized tests. It also will allow more concentration on mathematics and English – subjects on which Washington in effect requires substantial use of standardized tests.

Another proposal approved by the board is to allow county school systems to use Common Core-style “integrated” high school mathematics courses – or go back to the old method of separate basic and advanced algebra and geometry classes.

State officials have evidence in favor of that.

Putnam County school officials asked for a waiver from the integrated mathematics requirement, which it started using in the 2012-13 school year. Reportedly, three very good math teachers left their jobs because they disagreed with the Common Core approach.

Apparently, they had cause for complaint. It also has been reported Putnam County ninth graders’ tests showed 68 percent of them had “mastery” level achievement in math – before the integrated classes were used. Now, the level has dropped to 56 percent.

State school board members should continue backing away from some Common Core requirements – for the good of West Virginia children. We in the Mountain State should do what is best for them – not what someone else tells us is right.

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