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Wise defends Common Core; says invest in teachers, education

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Wise defends Common Core; says invest in teachers, education
By Shauna Johnson, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The first in a series of town hall meetings on West Virginia’s Next Generation education standards, commonly referred to as Common Core, is scheduled for Tuesday in Morgantown.

Representatives with the state Board of Education are traveling the state to gather public comments as part of a larger review of the benchmarks, first adopted by the state BOE in 2010, detailing what students should know at different points in their school careers.

There are 900 specific English and math standards under review.

Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, current president of the Alliance for Excellent Education based in Washington, D.C., is a supporter of those standards in their current forms.

“They were an effort by over 40 states to come together, on their own, and to look at the best standards necessary, both internationally as well nationally, in terms of what our students needed to be able to truly measure up in a modern economy,” Wise said.

He sees no reason to return to the days of individual states developing their own standards.

“I’d rather put those millions of dollars into education, into teachers, into what is necessary to move us ahead,” he said.

The first round of Smarter Balanced standardized tests, based on the new standards, were released in August and showed 25 percent of 8th graders, 18 percent of 9th graders, 15 percent of 10th graders and 20 percent of 11th graders scored at the “proficient” level.

Wise was a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” for a discussion on the recently released ACT scores from the 2015 high school graduating class.

Nearly 11,200 West Virginia students, or an estimated 66 percent of graduates, took the ACT this year.

Nationally, 42 percent of 2015 high school graduates who took the ACT met the benchmark for college readiness in math, while 38 percent made the grade in science. West Virginia’s scores are lower with 34 percent of 2015 high school graduates testing high enough to be considered college-ready in both math or science.

The average ACT composite score in West Virginia increased from 20.6 in 2014 to 20.8 this year while the national average ACT composite score stayed at 21.

In all, 21 percent of West Virginia students reached proficiency in all four subjects: English, reading, math, science. Nationally, that number was 28 percent.

“Now we’ve got a photograph of where things are. We’ve got steps in place, already in place and have been, to do something about it and now the key is to watch and see whether or not we begin to see improvement,” Wise said.

On the show, he noted the adoption of higher standards and tougher assessments have lead to increased student achievement in Kentucky. In four years, he said Kentucky had almost doubled its college and career readiness rate.

The Legislature unsuccessfully attempted to repeal the Next Generation standards, also called Common Core, during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session and there have already been indications lawmakers will revisit the issue during the 2016 Regular Legislative Session.

The town hall meetings are scheduled as follows:

September 1, 6:30pm
 West Virginia University
 Morgantown, WV
 The Erickson Alumni Center
 Ruby Grand Hall

September 3, 6:30pm
 Marshall University
 Huntington, WV
 Memorial Student Center
 Shawkey Room – 2nd Floor

September 10, 6:30pm
 BridgeValley Community and Technical College
 South Charleston Campus

September 17, 5:30pm
 Concord University
 Athens, WV
 Rahall Technology Building
 Room 304

September 20, 5:30pm
 Southern WV Community and Technical College
 Logan Campus – Mt. Gay, WV
 Building A, Room 111

September 22, 6:30pm
 West Liberty University
 Wheeling, WV
 Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex (ASRC)
 Boyle Conference Room

September 29, 6:30pm
 Shepherd University
 Shepherdstown, WV
 Erma Byrd Hall
 Auditorium – Room 117

A public comment period on the Common Core or Next Generation Standards, which are posted on the state Board of Education’s website, continues through Sept. 30.