By Ron Gregory
BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – “Common Core” is a term on the lips of many educators and state legislators. That was particularly true during recent legislative interim committee meetings in Bridgeport. Basically, the reference is to an educational evaluation program geared toward setting standards for students who are heading to college or to working careers.
In fact, more than 200 people attended a presentation on the program by Dr. Sandra Stotsky held at the Courtyard Marriott on the day prior to interims.
Mingo County Del. Harry Keith White, who was not able to attend the presentation, said he did “hear plenty about Common Core in Bridgeport,” however. White said his involvement with education and the fact that his wife is an educator played some role in “making people discuss this program with me.” Although he did not give his wife’s viewpoint, White said, “Nearly everyone who has talked to me has said this is just not good,” speaking of Common Core.
Although White said that the decision to implement the program in West Virginia public schools was “made from the top down,” he said he believes it has been implemented too quickly and without enough consideration to the thoughts of school teachers and administrators at the local lvel.
“Everyone knows the state school board made the decision to implement this program without much consultation with anyone,” White said. “I just think more consideration should have been given to those who must now make the program work for our students.”
Stotsky, a professor of education emeriti at the University of Arkansas, was called “the world’s most formidable expert on educational standards” at the Bridgeport session by Angie Summers, a representative of West Virginia Advocates Against Common Core. It was clear that most in attendance at Bridgeport were opposed to the program, although White said, “I am not saying Common Core is a bad program. I’m just saying it changes all the educational standards too quickly and, at best, should have been implemented over a period of years, not days.”
Summers said Stotsky was a major figure in developing an educational standards program for Massachusetts, which she called “one of the strongest K through 12 programs in the nation.” Summers added that state citizens are “going to learn that these standards being put into these schools are not going to work.”
Summers went on to say, “For West Virginia, this is going to be a disaster.”
In her remarks, Stotsky said the state Board of Education should have requested advice from engineering teachers, for example. She said oil and gas have bright futures in the Mountain State, economically, and the state school board should have considered the opinion of educators as to whether Common Core would help students develop into positions in those industries.
White echoed that thought. “As I said,” he continued, “there was not enough consultation with anybody. I did not hear her (Stotsky) remarks but it sounds like she was exactly correct about that.”
Like White, Stotsky said the four primary groups left out of planning and development of Common Core standards were parents, teachers, legislators and local school board officials. White added, “They are going to even abandon WesTest for evaluating student performance. How do you do that in one year?”
Summers told the Clarksburg paper that Stotsky was on the validation committee and refused to sign a document saying she thought the standards would work.
State School Board President Gayle Manchin, wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, is said to be the chief proponent of Common Core standards. White said, “I am not sure who’s responsible for making it happen but whoever did it should have taken more time.”
Stotsky said the standards are weak and teachers cannot be expected to teach material they don’t understand. “High school teachers in geometry also seem to be having a terrible time,” she said. “They’re being asked to approach the teaching of Euclidean geometry with an approach they never learned themselves in college.”
She continued, “It was tried in the Soviet Union in the seventies. It didn’t work there. They abandoned it, but for some reason, it found its way into Common Core grade 10. We have teachers being asked to do things that don’t make sense to them.”
An Ohio legislator who attended the Bridgeport meeting said he has drafted legislation there to eliminate Common Core. Several West Virginia legislators, including Republican state Sen. Donna Boley of Pleasants County, have loudly opposed Common Core at public meetings. Boley describes herself as a member of the “group trying to get rid of Common Core in West Virginia.”
Asked if he is a member of that group, White said he is not
He said simply, “I haven’t talked to one single person who is not unhappy with the way this has been handled.”