by David Flinn 08.23.2015
Following the failed attempt by the West Virginia Legislature during the 2015 legislative session to repeal and replace the Common Core State Standards, known in the Mountain State as Next Generation Content Standards, State Superintendent Michael Martirano has said the West Virginia Department of Education, along with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and West Virginia University (WVU), will conduct a “comprehensive review” of the Common Core aligned English and math standards.
Before going into who is “conducting” the review, which raises serious concern for those of us who have closely followed and monitored the systemic changes to West Virginia’s public education system, it should be noted that the reading and writing standards for literacy in history/ social studies, science and technology are also based on the Common Core Standards for math and English Language Arts.
Now, who is Martirano proposing to “conduct” and study the review? The SREB, a policy think tank that advises 16 state consortium members, which West Virginia is one of, and who has received millions of dollars in funding from the Gates Foundation? The same Gates Foundation by the way that poured millions not only into the Common Core State Standards Initiative but also to the attached teacher training and technological equipment programs and tools that is the foundation for the education reform movement. WVU, who has been at the table from the very beginning, making changes to their own teacher programs and student selection processes to align with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, who receives funding from both the State and federal governments and who must maintain their accreditation as a teacher college? Master teachers in the Department of Education who have been trained to implement the Standards across the Mountain State?
Another question one may ask is, “What do they intend to review?” The Department of Education has said they have had a long and intensive review of the Common Core Standards by West Virginia teachers and found that they were acceptable for implementation. Could it be the Department merely intends to give the appearance they have satisfied the demands of the Legislature and the people? Martirano has also asserted the information gathered will be used to determine if “changes need to be made.” Dr. Martirano knows the Common Core State Standards are owned and copyrighted by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and “cannot” be changed without their permission. If the goal is to have “common” standards in every state, what is the logical likelihood they would let any state break from the commonality they demand? The Governor and State Superintendent of Schools in the WV application for Race To The Top grant money, and in various other documents seeking funding from the U.S. Department of Education for various programs, agreed to meet the assurances required to secure the aid in funding. Is the State Superintendent making promises he knows he can’t keep?
Also, the good Dr. has been quoted as saying the “review” is a “substantive work that gets us moving forward for the future of our kids.” We thought substantive meant viewing and evaluating all sides of an issue, which the Department of Education has not done. Instead, anyone who disagrees with or voices opposition to the Core initiative is called nothing short of certifiably mental and disregarded by those pushing the education reform movement.
Hundreds of psychologists and other experts have come out in opposition to the “developmentally inappropriate” Standards. Also, the American National Standards Institute said “Common Core State Standards were written in a way that violates the nationally and internationally recognized procedure for writing standards. The process by which they were created was so fundamentally flawed that these “standards’ should have no legitimacy.” Not to mention the Department has not only ignored but has attacked the reputation and character of those who served on the Common Core Validation Committee who refused to validate the standards. And yes, there were members of the committee who refused to do so.
The WV Department of Education has said that after the school board adopted the standard in May 2010, and before the official release of the standards, the Department appointed teachers to review and make changes to them. How can one rework and make changes to materials that are copyrighted when you have no authority to do so? Board members say they want the review process to be “open and transparent.” Where was the openness and transparency before the State Board adopted them in May 2010? They left the Legislature, parents and taxpayers out of the process, so I ask, why should we believe them now?
According to Dr. Martirano, how the upcoming review committees will be formed is still to be determined. If the people who have the most to gain by a predetermined outcome also do the selecting of who will serve on the review committees, then the people will get the same predetermined outcome decision from the committees. After all, one could logically argue, given their involvement from the beginning, the Department is already stacking the deck by using WVU and SREB to reinforce an already made conclusion that the standards are the greatest thing to ever come to the Mountain State and is the only thing that will keep us from going extinct from an inability to function in society. Also, according to Martirano, the review will consist largely of an online platform capable of “reaching a larger audience” and whether or not the Department will conduct town hall meetings, which incidentally is required by WV Code and should have been done before the adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in May 2010, is still being worked out. The feedback from the online platform will be sorted by a non-specified group or entity. This scenario also raises questions. Everyone understands that an online platform for comments conducted by the Department of Education is the easiest to manipulate and control, especially when decisions about which comments are included in the final analysis is decided by the staff of the Department of Education. That is equivalent to putting the fox in charge of guarding the hen house. The absence of town hall meetings removes any opportunity to get real answers. The West Virginia education code, 18-2H-2, states that the State Board of Education or Department of Education “shall” conduct at a minimum of four town hall meetings to allow the citizenry to participate with questions and answers “prior to the adoption or implementation of any state reform which constitutes a significant change in the philosophy or goals of education in the public schools of West Virginia.” That did not happen. When one controls the entire process there is no opportunity for tough questions to be put to education officials and proponents of the Core that must be answered with substantive information, which they have so far refused to make available. Therefore, the outcome will be determined by the ‘handlers and controllers” of the process. The sorting of the online information/comments merely allows whomever sorts to pick and choose what will be seen and heard.
This proposed study, “review,” is nothing more than a charade, after the fact, being orchestrated by the officials of the Department of Education and the State Board of Education to fool the Legislature and the citizen taxpayers and parents of West Virginia after being called out for not doing their due diligence and not involving the people of our sate in the decision to radically change the philosophy and goals of our public education system. It is time to hold them accountable to the laws of West Virginia.
We the people of West Virginia call for a thorough/transparent and unbiased review by sources, institutions and people who are not vested in the successful continuation of the status quo regardless of the harm to the children of West Virginia and the fiscal stability of our state.