Repeal bill baffles Common Core backers

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Repeal bill baffles Common Core backers
By Ryan Quinn, Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates passed a bill Saturday to repeal Common Core standards in West Virginia, but the state schools superintendent says he doesn’t know what specific standards legislators have problems with.

“I do not have in my possession any one particular standard that is a concern,” Superintendent Michael Martirano said Monday morning after addressing members of the Senate Education Committee.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said he’s not necessarily a Common Core proponent, but he voted against the repeal after asking other delegates for examples of specific standards they took issue with. He received, instead, anecdotes about problems with required student work supposedly based off the standards, though the state Department of Education consistently argues the curriculum is separate from the standards.

“I don’t think it’s very well thought out,” Pushkin said.

House Education Chairwoman Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, the lead sponsor of the bill, conversely argues that the standards “dictate” the curriculum.
“It’s all kind of been meshed together as one big problem,” she said.

Pasdon says students, parents and educators are upset.

But Delegate Joe Statler, R-Monongalia, said that principals and the superintendent in that county have “overwhelmingly contacted me and said they wanted to stay the course.”

“It’s just the unknown they’re afraid of,” said Statler, who voted against the repeal bill.

The Senate Education Committee received the repeal bill (HB 2934) after the House passed it 75-19, and assigned it to a subcommittee chaired by Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, a repeal supporter. That committee is set to meet 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in room 206 of the Capitol’s West Wing.

Unlike in the House — where the bill was filed for introduction last week and passed with little discussion the following day — the legislation has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee after it leaves Education.

The state Department of Education, where officials have expressed opposition to repealing the standards, has estimated the bill would cost about $168 million. “I would hope Finance would have an opportunity to look at that,” Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said after noting the projected price tag.

The cost estimates were in doubt Monday because state Department of Education officials, who have publicly opposed the repeal, are unsure what standards the legislation would require the state to ditch.

On Monday, Angela Summers, of West Virginia Against Common Core, did hand Senate Education members a copy of what she said was a problematic standard requiring several steps to answer a subtraction problem. Education officials did not say Monday whether the standard actually required the steps.

Much of the discussion from Common Core opponents has centered on the standards in math and, to a lesser extent, the standards in English/language arts that form the heart of Common Core.

But before passage over the weekend, Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, proposed a successful amendment to add to the repeal “the subsequent Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives as approved by the Board in August 2011.” Sponsors of the bill have said this amendment was designed to ensure a repeal of the Common Core-based math and English/language arts standards, despite the state school board having renamed them the “Next Generation” standards.

But according to minutes from that board meeting available online, only the “Next Generation Driver Education Content Standards and Objectives for West Virginia Schools” were on the August 2011 board meeting agenda. Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said the board adopted the math and English/language arts Next Generation standards, which are based on the Common Core, in July 2011, not August.

Further complicating questions about what teaching requirements the bill would abandon is the fact that there are some Common Core literacy/reading standards embedded in the social studies and science standards West Virginia currently has. Clayton Burch, the Education Department’s chief academic officer, said he believes a repeal of Common Core would thus at least require a revision, if not a full repeal, of the social studies and science standards.

Martirano said that to his understanding, the bill would repeal “pretty much everything.” He said he’s still seeking clarification on what the legislation would mean.
Though those school officials believe the bill may repeal the math, English/language arts, science and social studies standards, the legislation would only establish committees to write new math and English/language arts standards.

Also, there’s the possibility that a repeal of Common Core math and English/language arts standards wouldn’t actually repeal most math and English/language arts standards in West Virginia. According to documents from the Education Department, only a fifth of K-12 English/language arts standards weren’t in the pre-Common Core standards.

Only 27 percent of the K-8 math standards weren’t in the prior version. The department didn’t calculate the difference in math standards for grades 9-12, where the traditional courses of algebra I, geometry and algebra II were replaced with the integrated courses of math I, II and III. But the state school board voted this month to allow county school districts to revert to the traditional math class structure if they chose to — albeit while still teaching Common Core standards.