Two important education bills still sitting on Gov. Tomblin’s desk

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Two important education bills still sitting on Gov. Tomblin’s desk
By Matt Maccaro, WV MetroNews

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has about two days to make two big decisions on whether to sign a pair of bills that will affect education in West Virginia.

One bill would alter teaching standards now referred to as College and Career Readiness Standards, while the other would allow the use of banked time to count toward making up days lost due to inclement weather and meeting the 180 day requirement.

The State School Board opposes both. President Mike Green said standards have already been vetted and reviewed, and there’s no need to repeat the process.

“We went through this last summer in our review of all of our standards, and we feel that we don’t need to do this again,” Green said. “We’ve been through that, we’ve vetted our standards and we’re happy with the way they are. WVU did a great a job in their spotlight review and pointing out anything that needed to be changed. I think that particular issue should be behind us and we need to move on to more important (ones).”

One stipulation of the bill would have WVU and Marshall select several members to review standards in math, English and science and make recommendations back to the board. The bill also would remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment standardized test, something else Green didn’t agree with.

“That gives us great concerns. We recently had a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute that did a review of several of the assessments that were out there, and Smarter Balanced was the one that was most aligned with our standards,” Green said.

Green pointed out that he respected the legislature and believed it has the best interests of students at heart, but the board should have the authority to select its own testing service, and that politics should stay separate from education.

“We believe the people making these decisions and recommendations should be the people in the classroom, our administrators, principals and superintendents, and those who deal with education every single day.”

The proposal would replace Smarter Balanced with the ACT college entrance exam for high school students, the argument being that students are more likely to take the ACT seriously than a test which is not reflected in their grade. Green said the board was working on ways to change that.

“Certainly we don’t want our kids to come to school and ‘tank’ those types of tests,” he said. “So we’re looking at situations whereupon that test will actually count for something. In the future, we’re looking at end of course exams, where that particular assessment at the end of a particular grade in high school would actually count toward your grade, and this way kids will perhaps take this a little more seriously.”

Green was also not in favor of the use of banked minutes counting toward make-up school days.

“We think this particular thing about minutes and so on is really just a mathematics game,” Green said. “We really want our students to be in school for 180 days. That’s not punitive; we really believe students need to be in school 180 days in front of a qualified teacher.”

The banked minutes legislation would prohibit school systems from starting the school year before Aug. 10, and the latest school could let out in the summer would be June 10.

Tomblin has until Friday, April 1, to decide whether he will sign both