Tomblin veto favors state educators, kids

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Tomblin veto favors state educators, kids
Register Herald editorial

The Governor’s message to legislators was clear Friday when he vetoed two education bills: Be patient and let the professionals do their jobs.

We would have added: Stop meddling and mucking up matters.

As originally designed, House Bill 4014 would have prohibited teachers from using Common Core educational standards. After it emerged from the sausage-making legislative process, only the Smarter Balanced Testing measure — testing aligned with the standards — was being scheduled for a date with the guillotine.

Wisely, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin nixed the bill.

Before the most recent legislative session, the state board of education — acknowledging and responding to critics of Common Core — had replaced that set of standards with something called College and Career Readiness Standards. In truth, they were and remain Common Core in disguise.

The slight adjustments rankled some legislators. Plain and simple, they wanted to kill Common Core. But repealing those standards would have forced schools to go back to 2010 standards. Yes, this was an embarrassing, knuckle-dragging moment for the legislature. While the rest of the country was moving ahead in building educational models for the future, our schools — already being lapped by the field — would have been forced to run backward. Not the best strategy if you’re playing catch up.

We’re pretty sure that legislators as a body lack sufficient expertise in writing educational standards free of political persuasion. We think, by law, they lack standing, too. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in the late 1980s that the legislature does not have the authority to delve into the day-to-day functions of the Department of Education. In short, standards are the purview of the State Board of Education.

As well they should be.

And here is what the real experts — you know, teachers and administrators who have been professionally trained and educated in such matters — have done: The College and Career Readiness Standards and Smarter Balanced Testing are aligned. In other words, what school children are being taught will be tested. Makes sense, right? Once test scores are tabulated and returned to schools, educators and school administrators will be able to better assess what’s working, what’s not and what adjustments can be made without upsetting the whole apple cart.

This is called progress.

Dr. Michael Martirano, state superintendent of schools, says having tests aligned with standards spotlights where students are achieving and where they need work. With only one year of test results available, Martirano has said there is no way to tell if the assessments have worked.

In his veto message, Tomblin agreed. “It discounts the time and consideration that will be needed to evaluate and establish a new statewide summative assessment test.”

The governor pressed for patience, saying the state should give the new standards and measures “added time to take hold, and see what works and what does not.”

“We need to be cautious not to undermine stability for our teachers or the children they are trying to educate,” Tomblin wrote.

We agree and we appreciate the governor’s foresight and unwavering support of the plan in place.

We’re pretty sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the effort to derail the new standards and the corresponding testing mechanism. And that is sad and unfortunate. At least for now, schools can move forward with their lesson plans for the year ahead. We hope that initiative is allowed to continue on down the road.

In educational matters, we trust expertise, not politics.