Common Sense Needed

February 25, 2015

By Michael J. Martirano, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools

Common sense is the key to effective decision making. This is true when it comes to the West Virginia Next Generation Standards. These standards guide the work of teachers as they help our children learn and thrive and prepare them for college and careers.

Now a small group in West Virginia has the ear of legislators and want lawmakers to direct the West Virginia Board of Education to repeal all of these standards. As the West Virginia superintendent of schools, I am reaching out to all who will listen... individuals searching for facts and common sense.

Please know that the West Virginia Next Generation Standards define what all our students need to know and be able to do. Standards are not curriculum. Unfortunately, the two are often confused. For example, I have seen the social media frenzy about math worksheets being sent home and parents not knowing how to help their children. Math worksheets are not the standards but instead are a curriculum tool. Curricula are the lessons, activities and projects that teachers design to help students achieve the standards. I am confident this type of confusion can be remedied without repealing the standards.

If the state board is forced to repeal the Next Generation Standards, there will be significant consequences which will ripple through our state's education structure and cripple high-quality teaching.

If the state board is forced to repeal the standards, it will mean we do not trust our teachers to know what is best for our students and four years of work by our teachers would be wasted. This includes time that West Virginia educators spent over the last four years in writing the standards, participating in multiple professional learning sessions as well as the countless hours developing rigorous, engaging and creative lessons that help students learn the content while deepening their problem solving and critical thinking skills.

If the state board is forced to repeal the standards, we will be ignoring the voices of our teachers, principals and superintendents who urge us to "stay the course."

If the state board is forced to repeal the standards, it would put West Virginia at tremendous risk of losing federal dollars that support children in-poverty, special needs students and English language learners. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires all states to have standards. West Virginia would be in violation of existing ESEA flexibility waiver and thus risk the loss of over $225 million annually in federal dollars.

If the state board is forced to repeal the standards, it would be financially irresponsible. The cost of developing and implementing new West Virginia standards is estimated at over $42 million and at least two years of time. Where do we get the resources to develop different standards? How do we recapture the time, cost, energy and effort already spent?

If the state board is forced to repeal the standards, it means teachers have no “standard” for curriculum development, for measuring our students' academic progress, for resource selection, for ongoing classroom assessments, or for recording student grades in a course.

Forcing the state board to repeal the standards is not the answer. Common sense would be to listen to all sides and review the standards and make adjustments where concerns exist. Common sense would be to find common ground. Common sense would be to put students first and politics second. As a parent, an educator and the state superintendent of schools, I ask that common sense prevail and that we do not do anything to disrupt the momentum for improved achievement for all students in West Virginia.

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