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Review of Common Core to begin, will seek online comments

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Review of Common Core to begin, will seek online comments
By Samuel Speciale, The Charleston Daily Mail

The West Virginia Department of Education is ready to conduct a comprehensive review of its Common Core-based English and math standards, Superintendent Michael Martirano announced Wednesday during a state Board of Education meeting.

With the help of West Virginia University and the Southern Regional Education Board, the department will begin its review later this month when it launches a public commenting website that will be open for three months. After the commenting period, feedback will be analyzed and used to determine if any changes need to be made.

Martirano, who told the Daily Mail in March he would direct his staff to review the controversial standards even though recent legislation requiring him to do so failed to pass both the House and Senate, assured board members on Wednesday that the department would not just be “going through the motions.”

“This is a substantive work that gets us moving forward for the future of our kids,” he said.

During his first year as West Virginia’s superintendent, Martirano has devoted much of his time to defending the standards, which have been targeted by anti-Common Core groups who have pushed for legislation that would make it illegal for schools to use them.

Common Core is a set of consistent grade-level expectations in math and English that guarantees public school students across the county get the same basic education. They were developed in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

After the state school board adopted the standards in 2010, the Department of Education reworked them to fit within the state’s education framework and renamed them the Next Generation Content Standards.

State lawmakers attempted to repeal those standards, but the bill ultimately failed in a conference committee on the last day of the 2015 legislative session.

Common Core is expected to be a target again during the next legislative session, but Martirano hopes his review will help restore confidence in the standards.

“I believe this is the most important work in our state right now,” he said, adding that the department has to “get this right.”

Board members agreed, saying they want the review process to be transparent and open. They also asked that review committees include teachers and parents after raising concerns over “stacking the deck.”

How committees will be formed is still to be determined, but Martirano told board members multiple parties would be involved.

While Martirano introduced what he called an “aggressive” review timeline, he said some of the details, like whether or not the department will conduct town hall meetings, are still being worked out.

When he first said he would order a standards review, Martirano said the department could have regional meetings, but he said Wednesday an online platform will reach a larger audience.

“We’re creating a statewide town hall,” he said.

Response to state school policy commenting forums, which are hosted on the department’s website, are often hit or miss. While Martirano said he can’t predict how engaged the public will be, he wants critical, high quality feedback.

Part of that involves advertising the website and better communicating what the department is doing, Martirano said.

So feedback can be sorted, participants will be asked to include information about where they live and whether they are a teacher, parent or community member.

The commenting period will be open from June 18 to Sept. 30. WVU will analyze responses until Oct. 21, after which a committee will review the standards. A report is expected to be delivered to the department by Nov. 30 and to the board by Dec. 1.