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WV proposed new standards contain much language identical to Common Core

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WV proposed new standards contain much language identical to Common Core
 By Ryan Quinn, Education Reporter, WV Gazette-Mail

West Virginia’s proposed new K-12 math and English language arts standards, which the state schools superintendent says aren’t based on Common Core, contain much of the exact same language as the controversial national standards blueprint.

State Superintendent Michael Martirano told the state Board of Education and media Friday, when the board put the new standards out on 30-day public comment period, that the new educational requirements aren’t Common Core-based — unlike the current state standards that lawmakers have previously attempted to repeal.

The state school board is expected to have a final vote on the standards in December, before the start of the next legislative session in January.

But at least in grades K-5, the state’s current Common Core-based standards and the proposed new standards contain much of the exact the same language, down to the same examples for what students should learn, according to a review of the elementary grade standards.

The Gazette-Mail still is looking through the grades 6-12 learning requirements, which include at least one big difference from Common Core: the ability, previously OK’d by the state school board but not yet written into the standards, for schools to teach the traditional math courses of Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, instead of the mixed-subject math courses of Math I, II and III.

Asked Monday whether it is disingenuous to say the new standards aren’t Common Core-based, Martirano said no.

“And it’s insulting that you would insinuate that, because the bottom line is that — there again, you have to understand curriculum and instruction at the basic level,” he said. “There is a sequence and a pattern at which we introduce things. We don’t just jumble those things up.”

“... We have to use the language that’s very clear, and there’s only so many ways you can say that language without moving away from the fidelity of our knowledge base and our curriculum and our instruction.”

State Department of Education officials said they couldn’t estimate what it would cost to fully implement the new standards — a figure that could include replacing the statewide exams aligned to Common Core.

Martirano, however, suggested it would be less than the figures the department estimated for the Common Core repeal bills the Legislature tried to pass earlier this year. At least one of those topped $100 million, a number department spokeswoman Kristin Anderson said included only $1.6 million to actually rewrite the standards. That’s higher than the no more than $300,000 that’s been spent to produce the proposed new standards.

While pieces of the standards documents in K-5 have been reorganized, renumbered and redubbed, and a new introduction and other wording has been added, much of the language remains exactly the same in the early grades from Common Core to the new standards.

The eight “Mathematical Habits of Mind” in the new standards are the same as the eight “Standards for Mathematical Practice” that are in both Common Core and the state’s current standards.

Mathematical Habits of Mind, which are applied in all the K-5 grades, “describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students.”

That’s the first line of the definition of Standards for Mathematical Practice in the current standards and Common Core, though the rest of the definition has been deleted in the new standards.

In the new math standards, after a new box that lists almost exactly the same clusters, or groups, of standards that are in Common Core and the current standards — there appears to be an error in kindergarten where the “Operations and Algebraic Thinking” cluster is repeated where the “Number and Operations in Base Ten” cluster should be — the standards are listed in essentially the same order as they are in Common Core and the current standards.

Some changes directly reflect the recommendations from West Virginia University’s report on the Academic Spotlight review of the standards, which garnered more than 240,000 online comments from more than 5,000 individuals — the exact numbers differ from the WVU report to the summation of the review in the new standards documents.

More than 90 percent of comments supported the standards, and although the website accepted comments from anyone over 18, self-identified West Virginia K-12 teachers were responsible for 91 percent of the comments.

The WVU report contains recommendations from educators who reviewed the comments.

For the first-grade standard to “add within 100, including ... using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction,” the new standards don’t reflect the WVU report’s suggestion to remove subtraction.

According to information the education department provided, this was the most disagreed-with first grade standard, with 29 out of 270 comments, 11 percent, wanting some sort of change.

There are some more substantive changes. The new standards require students to start grouping pennies in kindergarten, and must “sort and classify pennies, nickels and dimes into groups of tens” in first grade.

The exact Common Core second-grade requirement for students to “solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies” is still in the proposed new standards. Commenters had argued that standard was too difficult for second graders who hadn’t been introduced to money at a younger age. “Parents just swipe cards!” one commenter wrote.

As for substantive changes in the English language arts standards, there’s a new requirement for students to learn one of two types of formal handwriting — cursive or joined italics.

Martirano said this addition, not something reflected in the WVU report, was something called for in the course of the eight town hall meetings the education department held in September during the Academic Spotlight review. Among the English Language arts wording changes, the new standards follow the WVU report’s recommendation to replace the requirement for fourth-graders to “type a minimum of one page in a single setting” with “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills.”

The WVU report said class time varies greatly across counties. Another fourth grade standard in Common Core that required students to “Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a literary text, including words that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean),” was modified to place “such as those” before “found,” thus no longer specifically requiring knowledge of mythology.

Most disagreeing commenters on the standard suggested moving mythology to a higher grade, but it wasn’t among the WVU report’s suggestions.