CHARLESTON, Wv. (Mar. 21, 2015) – A bill introduced in the West Virginia House to withdraw the state from Common Core standards passed a State vote. Having previously passed in the House, it is slated for the Governor’s desk. However, alterations were made during the process that could impact the effect of the bill.
House Bill 4014 (HB4014) was introduced by Del. Jim Butler (R-Mason) and 10 co-sponsors. The legislation was written to void Common Core standards and create a framework to establish state standards to replace them.
HB4014 passed the Senate on Mar. 12 with a 29-4 vote. Previously, it passed the House on Feb. 26 with a 73-20 vote. It now moves on to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature. He will have until April 1 to sign or veto the bill.
The legislation was amended from its original version during the legislative process with changes that could prevent the re-implementation of independent standards free from coercion by the federal government and its partners. The new language uses Common Core as the basis for formulating new educational standards. It reads, in part:
While recognizing that on December 15, 2015, the state board adopted what it represented were academic standards no longer aligned with Common Core State Standards and renamed them “West Virginia College – and – Career – Readiness Standards for English Language Arts (Policy 2520.1A)” and “West Virginia College – and – Career – Readiness Standards for Mathematics (Policy 2520.1B)”.
The Legislature hereby establishes an Academic Standards Evaluation Panel. The Senate President shall appoint two subject matter experts, one in mathematics and one in English Language Arts, and the Speaker of the House shall appoint two subject matter experts, one in mathematics and one in English Language Arts. The Committee on Academic Standards shall:
(A) Using the West Virginia College – and – Career – Readiness Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics as a framework, review and revise the standards, including additions, deletions, and edits based upon empirical research and data to ensure grade-level alignment to the standards of states with a proven track record of consistent high-performing student achievement in English Language Arts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and in Mathematics, on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress and Trends in Math and Science Study international Assessment.
The new version of the legislation also contains language that suggests that the Common Core standards would merely be ‘revised’ rather than replaced. HB4014 creates an ‘Academic Standards Evaluation Panel’ consisting of appointed experts permitted to do the following:
(A) Using the West Virginia College–and–Career–Readiness Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics as a framework, evaluate and recommend revisions to the standards based on empirical research and data to ensure grade-level alignment to the standards of states with a proven track record of consistent high-performing student achievement in English Language Arts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress; and in Mathematics, on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress and Trends in Math and Science Study International Assessment;
(B) Review the Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives for Science in West Virginia Schools and recommend revisions that it considers appropriate;
(C) Remove common core strategies that require instructional methods;
(D) Use facilities, staff and supplies provided by the Higher Education Policy Commission;
(E) Submit its evaluation and recommended revisions to the state board and the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability by October 1, 2016.
Another potentially troubling provision added to HB4014 would create ‘comprehensive statewide student assessment program’ to monitor the educational progress of students in an apparent partnership with the federal government. Participation in the program would be mandatory for grade-school children. It reads as follows:
For federal and state accountability purposes, the state board shall review and approve a summative assessment system for administration to all public school students, beginning in school year 2016-2017, in grades three through eight that assesses students in English, reading, writing, science and mathematics: Provided, That the assessment in science may only be administered once during the grade span of three through five and once during the grade span of six through eight.
As Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education said about a similar bill passed in Tennessee last year, many Common Core replacement bills end up being little more than “rebranded” versions of the same program. Even if the new state standards completely reject Common Core, it doesn’t mean the state won’t continue to allow the federal government to influence its education system.
Because of the amendments that were added to the bill, it will require additional public and legislative vigilance to completely push the feds out of education in West Virginia.
Common Core was intended to create nationwide education standards. While touted as a state initiative through the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the U.S. Department of Education was heavily involved behind the scenes. Up until recently, the DoE tied the grant of waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act to adoption of Common Core, using the standards as powerful strings to influence state educational policy. The Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress this month now prohibits the DoE from attempting to “influence, incentivize, or coerce State adoption of the Common Core State Standards … or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States.” But under the new federal law, states still must comply with College and Career Ready Standards, based on Common Core, as a condition for receiving some federal dollars. It also requires the federal education secretary to approve each state’s plans for standards and assessments.
Even with the federal strings partially cut from Common Core for the time being, it is still imperative for each state to adopt its own standards. The feds can once again use these national standards to meddle in state education at any time if they remain in place. Just as importantly, one-size-fits-all standard simply don’t benefit children. State and local governments should remain in full control of their own educational systems.
Rejecting nationalized education standards is the first step toward bringing true academic choice, and freedom. Passage of this legislation into law represents a positive step forward for the people of West Virginia and a path for other states to follow.
HB4014 must be signed by the Governor to become law. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin can be reached at 1-888-438-2731.