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Vast majority of online comments support WV's Common Core standards

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Vast majority of online comments support WV's Common Core standards
By Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette-Mail

The vast majority of the roughly 251,400 online comments submitted by more than 4,100 individuals as part of West Virginia’s review of its Common Core-based standards agreed with the K-12 learning requirements, according to data the state Department of Education released this week.

The Academic Spotlight website, which launched July 8 and closed at the end of last month, allowed people to read and comment on any of the over 900 math and English/language arts learning requirements after entering required data such as their names, whether they live in West Virginia and whether they are a parent, teacher or in some other role.

The West Virginia Board of Education is set to vote on possible changes to the standards next month, after they’re given more information on the comments.

The review website only accepted comments on specific standards, not general critiques. State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said that when legislators attempted to repeal the standards earlier this year, he didn’t hear any criticisms of specific standards.

While the department has been calling all the feedback from the website “comments,” Sarah Stewart, the department’s director of policy and government relations, said those who approved of specific standards were allowed to simply click a thumbs up button on them. She said the 251,400 total counts those as comments.

Stewart said those who said clicked the thumbs down were required to suggest a change in one of four categories: remove the standard, rewrite it, break it into smaller parts or move it to different course or grade level.

Of the 72,300 comments on the math standards, 95 percent agreed with them, while only 5 percent, or 3,900 comments, disagreed. Of the 179,100 comments on the English/language arts standards, 97 percent agreed with standards, while 3 percent, or 5,800 comments, disagreed. All English/language arts standards received comments, as did 96 percent of the math standards.

Most comments disagreeing with the standards suggested moving them to other courses or grades, not removing or rewriting them.

“While there was a vast amount of agreement, we see nearly 10,000 comments on how standards can be improved,” Stewart told state school board members Wednesday.

The top four counties with the most individuals commenting were Kanawha, Berkeley, Greenbrier and Mercer counties, each with 300 to 500 respondents. The department used smaller ranges to describe the remaining counties. Five counties — Cabell, Logan, Monongalia, Ohio and Wyoming — each had 200 to 299 respondents, while a dozen counties had 100 to 199 respondents and 34 counties had 1 to 99 respondents.

The new information comes after a survey last month suggested West Virginia’s county school board members are about evenly divided on whether the standards should go.

The survey questionnaire sheets were distributed during the West Virginia School Board Association’s fall conference in Charleston. Howard O’Cull, the association’s executive director, said 126 board members — equaling about 46 percent of board members across West Virginia, with representatives from 51 of the state’s 55 counties — completed the surveys, though they didn’t all answer every question.

About 52 percent of the 119 board members who replied to one of the survey’s questions said the learning requirements shouldn’t be tossed, but O’Cull, who analyzed the anonymous responses, said accompanying written comments indicate many of those members still have reservations about the standards.

Nearly 48 percent of the board members said the standards should go.

“That shows you the division we have within our membership,” O’Cull said.