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Gazette editorial: Classroom disruption

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Gazette editorial: Classroom disruption

State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano issued an important warning just before the start of the legislative session: Continual efforts to repeal state education standards are disrupting the state’s classrooms.

“We can’t continue to have this disruption every year,” Martirano said to reporters at the Associated Press Legislative Lookahead event on Jan. 8.

Last year, lawmakers threatened to repeal the state’s new standards, informally known as common core. In response the state Department of Education undertook a review, soliciting comments and suggestions from everyone and holding public meetings around the state where residents could ask questions.

West Virginians offered 250,000 comments, including 110,000 written comments, Martirano said. Of those, more than 90 percent were approving of the existing standards.

The state Board of Education updated the standards based on that public input. For example, people asked that West Virginia continue to teach handwriting and multiplication tables. Those requirements were restored to the new set, called the West Virginia College and Career Readiness Standards.

But that may not be enough for the anti-common core crowd.

In response to Martirano, Delegate Paul Espinoza, R-Jefferson, the new House Education Chairman, said the new standards may be too close to the old ones. “Common core rebranded,” he called them.

He suggested yet another review.

For what?

Martirano has patiently and repeatedly explained this complex process. Making an exhaustive list of what students will learn in which grade is not as simple as just pulling math standards from one state that you like and reading standards from some other program.

As research has evolved and matured on the subject of learning progression — the optimum order in which students encounter certain lessons — the state’s new standards reflect that work. Why should West Virginia throw that away?

West Virginia educators worked with their counterparts in other states for years to develop these standards. Now, with these recent improvements, based on public input, the result is not only a more demanding set of requirements for West Virginia schools, but also a set that is better organized based on what students can learn best at what age. Because they are largely aligned with what those other states are doing, comparisons among those states will be valid.

Martirano continues to beg lawmakers and anyone else to share any specific concern or wish with him, presumably so he can consider it and act accordingly. But speaking as an educator and a career curriculum expert, he said, whatever West Virginia does has to be research-based and developmentally aligned.

West Virginia’s new standards have not been in place long enough to know how well they work, but early indications are good. Kentucky was first down this road, and after an initial drop in test scores, students have improved with the tougher demands. Early results in West Virginia are promising, too, if students and teachers don’t have any further disruptions.