West Virginia Department of Education to review Common Core standards

West Virginia Department of Education to review Common Core standards

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano, seen here during a 2014 editorial board meeting, said last week that the Department of Education will review Common Core standards and curricula even though a bill that would have required the department to do so failed in the Legislature before the session ended. Martirano said he and board members are forming a course of action to review the standards.

 

By Samuel Speciale, Education reporter

The state Department of Education will conduct a review of the Common Core standards even though legislation requiring the state superintendent to do so failed to pass both houses before the session ended.

Superintendent Michael Martirano told the Daily Mail during an editorial board meeting last week that he and Board of Education members are determining a course of action, which may include conducting town hall meetings to discuss the standards and preparing parent resources that will address many of the concerns raised by the state’s lawmakers.

“We are going to do the majority of things addressed in their review bill,” Martirano said. “I asked them to let me do my job, so I’m going to do that.”

The bill, which ultimately failed in a conference committee on the last day of the 2015 legislative session, initially called for an immediate repeal of the standards when it passed the House. The Senate Education Committee amended the bill, downgrading it to a two-year review, a change House members would not agree to.

Through the course of the session, Martirano maintained there was no need to legislate the issue, which has become even more debated in the months since Republicans gained control of both Legislative chambers. Instead, he asked lawmakers to not make rash decisions that he said would have significant consequences.

“If they (the standards) had been thrown out, it would have disrupted everything,” Martirano said, adding that uncertainty over Common Core’s fate was stressful for teachers and education officials who have gone through three separate standard implementations in the past decade.

“Standards cannot be changed every few years,” he added. “You tweak them as you go, but you don’t just throw them out.”

Now that the legislative session is over and with repeal efforts seemingly dead for the time being, Martirano now will shift his focus to preserving the integrity of the standards, which he said have been attacked with misinformation.

He hopes to correct that with his review.

“We can do a better job of communicating what they are,” he said.

Common Core is a set of grade-level expectations in math and English that guarantees public school students across the country get the same basic education. In 2011, the Department of Education took those standards, reworked them to fit within the state’s education framework and renamed them then Next Generation Content Standards.

While Common Core opponents accuse the standards of being a national curriculum, they only dictate what students need to know before graduating to the next grade level. Curricula, on the other hand, is what teachers use to deliver the content outlined in the standards.

“We have to look at this,” Martirano said, adding that he intends to report any findings to the school board and the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability.

Martirano expects to present a review action plan to the board in the coming months.

“We can’t sit back and say ‘this didn’t go through so we can relax,’” Martirano said. “Because it could be back next year.”

The end of the 2015 legislative session caps Martirano’s first six months as West Virginia’s superintendent of schools. While it wasn’t his first time working with lawmakers, he said his experiences were different because he approached the bargaining table as a newcomer.

“It’s been exhilarating,” he said. “I started in September and haven’t hit the ground since.”

Before the Legislature convened in January, Martirano was in the middle of visiting counties to “immerse” himself in West Virginia’s schools.

“I really want to do that to see whats going on in our schools,” he said.

In his travels, Martirano has visited 22 counties. He said some of the positives he has seen is supportive teachers and the amount of resources available to schools.

“I’m hearing good things from students about caring and supportive teachers,” he said, adding that children are often brutally honest.

“They’ll tell you if they’re receiving a good education or not.”

While that is a positive, Martirano said he also has seen difficulties and inequities up close and personal, most troubling among them being the state of school buildings in Fayette County. He also said he has seen a disparity in students taking Advanced Placement courses.

Despite those and other concerns, Martirano said he is pleased with what he has seen the past six months.

As for the next six, Martirano said he will continue to execute his vision plan, which calls for improved student achievement and increasing the graduation rate to 90 percent.

Martirano also said he would like to see teacher vacancies in critical-need areas filled and across-the-state pay raises that would make salaries in the profession more competitive with surrounding states.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wvschools.