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Harrison school board seeks waiver to math standards

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By Roger Adkins 
The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG — The Harrison County Board of Education wants traditional mathematics courses to count toward graduation in Harrison County.

The issue was discussed during a 4 p.m. board meeting Wednesday at Harrison County Schools’ central offices on E.B. Saunders Way.

Barring any developments, it was the final meeting for the board in its current form, as well as for Superintendent Susan Collins. Three new members will join the board July 1, and Dr. Mark Manchin will take office as superintendent.

The board voted 4-1 to ask the West Virginia Board of Education for a waiver from Policy 2510, which would allow students to take traditional math rather than integrated courses that combine various subjects such as Algebra I, geometry and others.

Board member Doug Hogue was the sole dissenting voter.

Members of the public, as well as education officials, believed the school board was asking the state to exempt Harrison County from the state’s Next Generation Standards, which are derived from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Common Core is a set of standards developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards have been widely adopted by individual states across the country.

The item was listed on the agenda as “Waiver Request for Common Core.” However, according to board President David Sturm, the board was not asking for Harrison County to be exempt from Common Core.

Sturm said that was not the request made by Ken Winkie, who is safety and discipline director for Harrison County Schools.

During recent board meetings, speaking only as a concerned parent, Winkie has expressed concern that public schools have to abide by the state’s Next Generation integrated math standards while private schools do not.

Winkie said his issue is not with Common Core or which math is better. It is a matter of students being treated unequally. Students in private schools take traditional math and receive state accredited diplomas.

He said he wonders why public school students are treated differently. Additionally, students who transfer from out of state and have taken traditional math receive credit for the courses, yet in-state students do not have the same opportunity to take traditional math and have it be recognized, he said.

Regarding the Common Core debate, Winkie said he is being “pulled down a rabbit hole” that is not central to his issue of “equal representation and protection” for all students.

The meeting drew the attention of West Virginia Board of Education member Wade Linger, who was under the impression the board wanted to drop Common Core.

“The news release announcing this meeting said: ‘In a special meeting notice sent out by the Harrison County Board of Education this morning, it appears as if the school board is considering a request to opt out of having to comply with the federally mandated and controversial Common Core State Standards developed by the U.S. Department of Education,’” he said.

Linger took issue with multiple points.

“I found that quite interesting because the Common Core is not federally mandated ... and the Common Core state standards were not developed by the U.S. Department of Education,” he said.

Linger said these are two common myths about Common Core — and another is that it “dumbs down” math and English curricula.

“Again, not true. The Common Core sets minimum standards that every teacher is allowed and encouraged to exceed,” Linger said.

Harrison school board members said they understand Winkie’s point about the math portion of Policy 2510 creating a disparity. Since nothing can be done on the local level, it is best to put it in the hands of the state, board member Charles Reider said.

“It still bothers me that our students have requirements in math that private schools don’t have to follow,” Reider said. “It’s going to have to be an issue the state’s going to have to deal with.”

Linger was not optimistic that the state board of education would be able to grant a waiver, since the policy in question is tied to state law.