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Republicans still eying Common Core repeal

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Republicans still eying Common Core repeal
By Samuel Speciale, Education Reporter, Charleston Gazette-Mail

HUNTINGTON — Republicans in the House of Delegates will continue efforts to repeal Common Core in West Virginia regardless of any action taken by the state Department of Education during a comprehensive review of its controversial English and math standards.

Following a Thursday town hall meeting in Huntington set up to inform the public on the standards’ academic merit and gather comments on how they may be improved, if necessary, Delegate Michel Moffatt, R-Putnam, told the Gazette-Mail repealing Common Core is still on the Republican-controlled Legislature’s education agenda.

“I think what we have now is not the answer,” he said.

Developed in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Common Core was adopted in 2010 by the West Virginia Board of Education, though the standards were later renamed the Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives.

Despite backlash from conservative groups, who say the standards are being used by the federal government to take over local schools, organizations like the Fordham Institute have determined the standards are academically superior to those West Virginia used in the past and better prepare students for college.

Moffatt, one of the House’s most vocal opponents of Common Core, co-sponsored legislation during the 2015 session that would have prohibited West Virginia teachers to use the standards in their classrooms and would have required the Department of Education to develop or adopt a replacement by the start of this school year. After passing the House, the bill was downgraded to a study by the Senate Education Committee. It ultimately failed on the last day of the session.

Moffatt and Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, who also attended Thursday’s meeting, said they didn’t want a study of the standards then and don’t see much value in one now. Moffatt went so far as to suggest the Department of Education’s review has been rigged to favor keeping Common Core in West Virginia’s schools.

“We know what’s going to come out of this spotlight,” he said.

The town hall meeting was the second of seven scheduled at universities around the state. The meetings will be used in conjunction with the Department of Education’s “academic spotlight” on the embattled standards. The spotlight, called a “statewide town hall” by Superintendent Michael Martirano, uses a review website to collect comments on the state’s 900 math and English standards.

The need for such a review was prompted by the Legislature’s attempts to repeal West Virginia’s standards over their ties to Common Core, which is a set of grade-level expectations in English and math created to make sure public school students across the country receive the same basic education.

Department officials have said they hope the review will restore confidence in the standards and remove a need for future legislative intervention.

But repealing Common Core still has support from Republicans in the Legislature beyond Moffatt and Butler.

Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, has come out in support of throwing out the standards. Last month, the Bill Cole for WV campaign called for signatures to a petition to “Stop Common Core.”

Additional town hall meetings are scheduled to take place in South Charleston on Sept. 10, Athens on Sept. 17, Mount Gay on Sept. 20, Wheeling on Sept. 22 and Shepherdstown on Sept. 29. All meetings will start at 6:30 p.m., except for those in Athens and Mount Gay, which will start at 5:30 p.m.

Each meeting will last 90 minutes and will open with a brief informational session. The remaining time will be dedicated to answering questions submitted by those in attendance. Questions must be submitted in writing at the start of the meeting. Those that are not answered will be posted with an answer on the review website within a few days.

For those who cannot attend a town hall meeting, comments may be submitted on the review website, which can be accessed by going to www.wvacademicspotlight.statestandards.org.

Sarah Stewart, director of policy and government relations for the Department of Education, said all comments addressing specific standards will be used by review committees that will ultimately recommend what action, if any, the state school board should take.

None of the questions read aloud at Thursday’s meeting addressed specific standards, something department officials have said shows the concerns people are raising over Common Core cannot be pinned on the standards themselves.

Following Thursday’s meeting, Butler was critical of the review process and the department requiring comments to address individual standards