Editorial: State must convince people about Common Core benefits

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The Times West Virginian

It’s always nice to have a little bit of background information before diving into something new.

So we have to agree with West Virginia Board of Education president Gayle Manchin when she says the state should have done a better job of explaining Common Core standards when they were first introduced.

Those standards, part of a national educational initiative that sets learning goals designed to prepare students in kindergarten through 12th grade for college and career, will be fully implemented in every West Virginia school district next month.

The standards were developed primarily by education officials and governors in 48 states, and were adopted by the West Virginia Board of Education in June 2010. Then policymakers and teachers developed the West Virginia Next Generation Content Standards, which is the “state version” of Common Core standards, and each school and district will be responsible for making sure its students meet West Virginia Next standards, which will, in turn, ensure that students meet Common Core standards.

As the West Virginia Department of Education describes on its website, “Common Core standards focus on fewer concepts while stressing deeper learning and understanding, and are part of an overall drive to better prepare today’s students for college or careers. The goal is to provide states with fewer, clearer and higher standards that are to be benchmarked against international standards.”

Manchin explained that with standardized benchmarks for what every child should know at the end of every grade level, it’s also now possible for the state to compare its outcome to other states. And while some believe that the standards remove flexibility in the classroom, Manchin stressed that teachers on the local level still very much prepare curriculum to help children meet the benchmarks.

But because West Virginia didn’t do a good job of what Manchin described as “telling the story” of Common Core when the new standards initially launched, the board has been backtracking.

“Shame on us, because from the very get-go, from the moment at the state level that we said this was a good thing and we should go forward with it, we should have been out there with good, positive information explaining what it was,” Manchin said. “We unfortunately made the assumption that because we thought it was good, everyone would think it was good. By the time that we had this onslaught of people telling us what was wrong with it and how bad it was, now we’re on the defense, and that’s unfortunate.”

The Common Core standards will be a helpful tool in providing uniform standards for students across the country. But the guidelines don’t do anyone any good if nobody understands them. They do even less good if people view them based on negative and inaccurate information.

Now state BOE officials must work to convince parents, teachers and administrators about the benefits of the system of accountability and standard of learning.

As Manchin said, it’s up to members of the school board to carry the torch and educate others about the importance of Common Core in the hopes that the message will spread.