October 17, 2021

WV House of Delegates passes bill to repeal Common Core

STOP COMMON COREThe West Virginia House of Delegates passed House Bill 2934, repealing the common core standards, in a 75-19 vote Feb. 28.

Under the proposed measure, the West Virginia Board of Education would undertake a comprehensive review of the standards on or before July 16, 2015 to ensure that the Common Core Standards, as approved by the board in May 2010, are repealed. Also stated in the proposed bill is that “no assessments designed to assess student learning based on the common core standards, including but not limited to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, will be used in West Virginia public schools.” The proposed measure would require the state board to conduct at least four regional, town hall-style meetings to engage in public discussion and would require not more than one statewide assessment per school year.

The state board would also be charged with appointing a stakeholder body that would include parents, educators, administrators and legislators to participate in the standard review, “except that the legislator appointments shall be three Senators appointed by the President of the Senate, one of whom shall be the chair of the Senate Education committee, and three Delegates appointed by the Speaker of the House, one of whom shall be the chair of the House Education committee,” as outlined in the proposed measure.

Under the proposal, the state board would establish two standards development committees: the English Language Arts Standards Development Committee and the Mathematics Standards Development Committee. Those committees would then be broken into three subgroups. One group would be responsible for developing standards in grade PreK through fifth grade; one for grades six through eight; and one for grades nine through 12. To establish the committees, the district superintendents would nominate, based on a nomination form developed by the state board, one teacher for each subgroup in the English language art development committee and one for each subgroup in the math development committee. The composition for the subgroups is outlined in the proposed bill.

According to the legislative findings contained in the proposed bill, West Virginia public school funding comes from about 59 percent state, 31 percent local revenue and about 10 percent federal sources. The federal funding amounted to about $362 million for the 2012-2013 school year. The findings continue to state that most of the federal monies supplement the education of the disadvantaged and special needs.

Several delegates voiced concern regarding the proposed measure, citing the possibility of losing of federal dollars.

House Education Committee Chairman Delegate Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, said numerous times West Virginia would not lose federal dollars if the bill is passed. What the state may lose, she explained, would be the flexibility in how to spend it.

Under a previously adopted amendment by Delegates Jim Butler, R-Mason; Pasdon; David Perry, D-Fayette; Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel; Rick Moye, D-Raleigh; and Larry Williams, D-Preston, “except for the purposes of section thirty-nine, article two of this chapter, suspend the use of student test score results on any state summative assessment for any purpose other than strategic planning for school improvement, required reporting an professional development until school year 2016-17.”

“In order to retain the No Child Left Behind waiver, we have to have standards and we have to have to have testing,” Butler said to explain the amendment. “This amendment ensures that testing can be reported to the federal government, which allows us to retain our waiver.”

Perry also echoed that the amendment would ensure no federal dollars were lost.

“The amendment will allow for a summary of the assessment and reporting of aggregate data to the federal government,” he said. “The purpose of the amendment will be so that the federal government would not withhold or cut funding from the state.”

When it comes to fiscal notes or money that may be spent reversing course, there was a never a fiscal analysis done to determine Common Core implementation costs.

“It is my understanding from our discussions that if they can put in these standards for zero cost, than (the state board) can remove these standards for zero cost, so I do not trust the fiscal note that was provided by the State Department of Education and how the fiscal note was prepared,” Perry said.

According to Pasdon, any additional cost that may arise would simply be absorbed into the WVDE budget.

“We were second in the nation to adopt Common Core standards,” she said. “There were ‘Race to the Top’ grants offered by the Obama administration for those that adopted the standards. Even though West Virginia was the second state in the nation to adopt these standards, we were overlooked and not given any federal dollars.

“We continued the adoption of these standards from the State Department of Education’s current budget of $2.4 billion. They took the initiative to adopt these standards on their own, and they absorbed it within their current budget. There was no funding given by the Legislature or any legislative action taken on it at all. This was done on their own by the Department through their own initiative and within their own budget.”

On Friday, Feb. 27 the State Board of Education called an emergency meeting to discuss the bill.

Superintend Michael Martirano said during the meeting “not one parent has voiced a concern to me about a particular standard during my six months of service.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, when House Bill 2934 was taken up and passed out of the education committee, a crowd of Common Core opponents gathered at the Capitol, spilling into the Education Committee room hallway because there was no room in the committee room. Several town hall forums also had been conducted by Common Core opponents within the last six months.

The State Board indicated it would be willing to work with others to modify the curriculum. However, Board of Education President Gayle Manchin has been firm in her preference to continue with the curriculum. She recently told other media the issue had been politicized and that confusion had intentionally been created.

Several delegates with children spoke before the vote in favor of repealing Common Core, citing problems with homework, specifically math homework.

Delegate Michel Moffatt, R-Putnam, said his daughter used to be a straight-A student who loved school, but after bring home different math homework, things changed.

Moffatt also illustrated how curriculum and standards are one in the same. When learning how to add fractions, the curriculum states that it is to be learned through “visual” means. That means the traditional method of fraction addition that involved a least common denominator is no longer a viable teaching method. What Moffatt said his daughter had to do in order to meet the “visual” standard was to shade in what looked like two clock faces.

Other delegates, with college and advanced degrees and who have children, spoke about not being able to help their children with their math homework. Putnam County recently applied for a math waiver in order to teach the traditional math pathway instead of the Common Core integrated pathway. In the past, high-achieving students could take Algebra 1 in eighth grade, but several delegates said that can no longer happen.

Delegate Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell, said his sister has 30 years of education experience, and according to her, Common Core “is the worst curriculum she’s seen in the school system at the high school level.”

“We’ve all made mistakes and I think Common Core is one of them,” Rohrbach said.

So far, Indianan, Oklahoma and South Carolina have exited Common Core. A majority of states have taken some measure to opt-out, halt or repeal the standards and curriculum.

Delegate Walter Duke, R-Beckeley, said when Indiana adopted Common Core, the state said it would be the first to pull out if Common Core became something different than what was originally presented.

“Common Core hasn’t turned out what it was billed as and Indiana was the first state to pull out of Common Core,” Duke said.

Member states of the testing consortiums affiliated with Common Core, PARRC and Smarter Balanced, have also dwindled.

In Georgia, Duke said testing used to be $12 per student. With Smarter Balanced, Duke said it is now $29.50.

For Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, it boils down to philosophy.

“Common Core is the next step toward the nationalization of education in this country,” he said. “Establishing this precedent of Common Core where D.C. can control what every child learns in every school throughout the nation is a dangerous precedent to establish.”

For Pasdon, “it’s unfortunate that this has been put in our laps.”

Pasdon said the state board has forced Common Core on the students and that the achievement gap has only widened.

“The (state board’s) constituency is crying out to us because the state board isn’t listening to them,” she said. “Shame on the state board for not listening to their constituencies.”