Parent activists battling to replace the Common Core standards in West Virginia are outraged that the very Republican lawmakers who sponsored a bill to replace the Core with highly acclaimed K-12 standards have voted to amend the legislation.
“I am just sick and tired of seeing the unethical actions, stretching the truth, manipulating the circumstances and using rules and regulations written by an administrative agency, i.e., the State Board of Education, to control the mis-education of our children,” West Virginia education activist David Flinn tells Breitbart News. “The truth is never heard or seen by the people and even some of the legislators because the whole story is never aired.”
Some Republican lawmakers and education bureaucrats in West Virginia are jointly explaining their actions by declaring that the Common Core standards have already been “repealed” in the state when, in fact, the current standards – called the West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards – consist of language that is identical to Common Core.
The legislators succeeded in altering a bill that would have replaced the rudimentary Common Core standards in the state with the highly acclaimed 1997 California math standards and the equally celebrated 2001 Massachusetts English and Language Arts (ELA) standards.
SB 524 now no longer requires the state to adopt any new standards, but still says the state Board of Education is “prohibited from implementing Common Core academic standards.”
State Sen. Robert Karnes, a Republican and a sponsor of the original measure, actually suggested the amendment to the bill that removed the adoption of the California and Massachusetts standards. Another of Karnes’s amendments changed the date West Virginia would be “prohibited from implementing Common Core academic standards” from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018.
Karnes spoke at length with Breitbart News, describing the intense political pressure from pro-Common Core forces and their political allies to keep the current state standards, which, he agrees, amount to a “Common Core rebrand.”
“I would say our current standards are well over 99 percent the same as Common Core,” he states. “I don’t disagree with that.”
Karnes says he appreciates the California and Massachusetts standards, and even spent time over a year ago speaking with Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who helped develop the Massachusetts ELA standards. Dr. Jim Milgram of Stanford University led the development of the 1997 California math standards.
I’m fine with those standards, but there was a real concerted effort by some to…I don’t know if you could exactly say slander, but let’s just say they hit those standards very hard for being old and out of touch…and it was carrying a lot of weight. So, the amendment, essentially, served one purpose, and that was to keep the bill alive and move it over to the House.
And there’s an effort over there to define more clearly what we did in the amendment, essentially saying that state teachers, state educators, will be involved in any standards formulation, adoption, etc. We put that in there, and I’m told that on the House side they’ve got some even better language.
But, having those specific standards in there, I believe would have essentially killed the bill. It’s better to keep it moving than to watch it die.
Some Republicans in the state senate, however, are proclaiming Common Core to be already dead in West Virginia.
State Senate Education Committee chairman Kenny Mann, a Republican who co-sponsored the original bill to replace Common Core with the higher level standards, held up a state death certificate on the West Virginia Senate floor and said, “I want to just use this to say that Common Core is dead in West Virginia. I strongly believe that.”
Parent education activist Erin Tuttle, who dealt with a similar struggle against establishment Republican lawmakers in Indiana, testified early on before a West Virginia House education committee about a bill to repeal Common Core in that state. She tells Breitbart News:
Despite boastful claims from state legislators that Common Core was repealed, the people of West Virginia aren’t buying it. The fact that every school is still using Common Core textbooks and administering a Common Core test (Smarter Balance) is an everyday reminder to students, parents, and teachers that the state legislature’s claim is false.
Education bureaucrats and their political allies, however, are continuing the narrative that all standards are basically the same and that the California and Massachusetts standards are outdated.
According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, bureaucrat Sarah Stewart, director of policy and government relations for the West Virginia Department of Education, said her department recommended removing the renowned California and Massachusetts standards from the bill. She added that, with the removal of the amendment to adopt the higher-level standards, the state board of education would now not be required to change the current standards.
“I think all standards have a layer of commonality,” Stewart said. “We’re not arbitrarily gonna teach something different at third grade just for the sake of being different. So I think that our standards that we have in place were adopted with the input of teachers, so we will have met the statutory requirements if this bill passes.”
“State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano publicly argues that the state school board already repealed Common Core when it made its last revisions to the standards,” reports the Gazette-Mail.
Democrat state Sen. Bob Plymale, reports The Legislature, a West Virginia School Board Association publication, questioned state Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns (R), also a sponsor of the Common Core replacement bill.
“In the bill, it also says that you’ll repeal Common Core,” Plymale said. “That’s already been repealed. Why in the world would we put that in the bill?”
Ferns replied, “It’s my understanding that the Smarter Assessment [sic] part of Common Core was adjusted, but no new standards were adopted.”
Plymale said Ferns was incorrect, attacking the bill for calling for the Core’s replacement with the California and Massachusetts standards.
“The standards that are put forth in this bill aren’t even used in the states that are referred to,” Plymale said. “For example, the 1997 standards aren’t even being used in California.”
“I think we’re directing the state board to use these standards that were established in 1997 in California and 2001 in Massachusetts,” Plymale continued. “The standards that we have now were adopted by teachers – the teachers’ input. They went around the state.”
Much to the outrage of parents and many educators in the states of California and Massachusetts, their state legislatures and governors replaced their high-quality standards with the Common Core, in exchange for federal grant money and relief from the burdensome No Child Left Behind federal legislation.
Jamie Gass, education director at the Massachusetts-based Pioneer Institute, wrote at Breitbart News in 2014 about the effects of removing their higher quality standards and replacing them with Common Core:
Today Massachusetts’ SAT scores are down 20 points from their 2006 highs. Third-grade reading scores are the best predictor of future academic success. Last year, after several years of stagnation, the percentage of Massachusetts third-graders who scored proficient or advanced on MCAS reading tests fell to its lowest level since 2009. At 57 percent, the portion of third-graders reading at or above the proficient level is 10 points lower than it was in 2002.
“Martirano and Plymale have been behind all of the opposition arguments in every year that we have been fighting Common Core,” Flinn says. “They, with the help of others who we, at various times were convinced were on our side, in the end cooperated with the opposition to kill our bills to stop or repeal.”
The state senate approved the “symbolic Common Core repeal” by a vote of 23-8 in favor of the amended SB 524, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
The report notes:
The bill, which originally repealed Common Core and replaced the state’s current education standards with those from Massachusetts and California from 20 years ago, now only ensures West Virginia is no longer a part of the memorandum of understanding between states in the Common Core consortium.
It no longer requires the replacement of standards, but a “cyclical review” which must include West Virginia educators.
The bill now heads to the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Angela Summers of West Virginia Against Common Core posted the following to the group’s Facebook account:
Clearly, today you witnessed the underhanded, dirty tricks we have been fighting for four years as the Senate Ed Chair…
Karnes says the bill as it passed the state senate still has some value:
There’s a couple of things in there that are still worthy, in the sense that we officially terminate the Common Core standards – which is of marginal value – but the other thing that it does – which is of more value – is that it withdraws us from the memorandum of understanding, so that our state is no longer in any way bound to the Common Core standards. So, better that we’re free-floating than tied to that system.
When you’re still part of the consortium related to Common Core, you’re bound – you’ve signed off on this agreement – so that we won’t deviate more than 15 percent from Common Core. So, this bill does completely cut us free from our involvement with the consortium, and, therefore, any changes that we do in our standards from this point forward are no longer bound by that 15 percent limitation.
The Republican state senator, however, appears doubtful about whether the higher level California and Massachusetts standards will get back into the bill in the state House:
One of our issues is that we have a lot of educators in the House side, and I think they’re not convinced on those [California and Massachusetts] standards. And, so, I think if they’re not convinced on those standards as being the best standards, so between what I knew was going on over there, and what I knew was going on over here, I was pretty comfortable with the idea that, if we didn’t put that amendment in there, the bill was going to die.
“As long as the House can still work on it, it’s not dead and we still have something to work with,” Karnes says. “Not dead is better than dead.”
The Common Core standards are owned by two private groups: the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA).
Two multi-state test consortia funded by the U.S. Department of Education – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – have developed assessments based on the Common Core standards. Both consortia have dwindled significantly in their membership, however, as grassroots parent groups around the country have pressed lawmakers to break free from the Common Core reform.
Tuttle says state lawmakers must educate themselves about the true nature of the Common Core reform and work for what is educationally sound for the children of their states.
“Until state legislators stop lying to themselves and admit what everyone else knows to be true, very little progress will be made by West Virginia’s schools,” she says. “The state legislature needs to face reality and pass a bill that not only repeals Common Core, but ensures it is replaced by standards that work.”
Mann and Ferns did not return Breitbart News’s request for comment.