The West Virginia Department of Education is mandating changes to kindergarten through 12th grade math, English and language arts curriculums in cooperation with the new Common Core State Standards curriculum.
According to the mandate, the transition to the new curriculum must be complete by 2014. However, the WVDE has allowed each county to determine the best way to implement the changes, as long as they are complete by the 2014 deadline.
The initial design of the new curriculum standards was a joint effort between the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a consortium formed between the National Governors Association for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The purpose of the CCSS Initiative is to provide a clearer and more applicable curriculum for students.
Liza Cordeiro, WVDE executive director of the office of communications, said a subject or topic needs to clearly be applicable to things outside of school.
"In math, this means learning through hands-on approaches," Cordeiro said. "No more rote memorization."
According to the CCSS Initiative website, extensive research and planning were conducted throughout the development process.
The new curriculum is based on information gleaned from teachers, schools and theorists around the world.
Their purpose is to provide the most clear and concise standards possible for educators, in order to ensure a stronger baseline for state education.
The CCSS Initiative is careful to emphasize the complete absence of any federal influence on the curriculum. Every state that implements the standards does so voluntarily.
Cordeiro said the WVDE decided to implement the CCSS curriculum changes because they are fundamentally aligned with changes the WVDE already is making within the West Virginia school system.
However, she also said the WVDE did not simply adopt the CCSS curriculum outright. Instead, it conducted extensive research and determined necessary modifications to customize them for West Virginia.
"We took the foundational items," Cordeiro said. "But, we changed them to suit our particular needs. We even changed the name to, 'West Virginia's Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives.'"
Part of the Next Generation plan is to introduce the new standards sequentially. Last year, they were incorporated into kindergarten classes.
The WVDE has made a point to provide teachers with all of the resources they need to make these changes, Cordeiro said. Last summer, workshops for kindergarten teachers prepared them for the new standards.
The new system's goals are similar to the Global 21 initiative the WVDE has been working on since 2008. Its focus is on 21st century learning items like problem solving, collaborative learning and critical thinking.
She added that Next Generation changes "are really just a part of Global 21."
Still, some people are unsure of Next Generation's practicality.
During an informational presentation for the Barbour County Board of Education, which was provided by Barbour County Assistant Superintendent Jeff Kittle, Board Member Doward Matlick expressed concerns about how the standards would accommodate students with special needs.
Kittle said that the changes do not necessarily inhibit teachers from adapting to their students' needs.
"Our teachers are specially trained to work with students with varying levels of cognitive ability," he said. "They will still be able to do this."
He added, "I look forward to the new standards, it will be challenging but I think it will be an excellent change for our students."
The next step for Next Generation will be to establish a new correlative science curriculum. Cordeiro said the WVDE also will develop a new assessment for the new curriculums.
"The new assessment will be implemented by 2014, when all grade levels have transitioned to the NGCSO curriculum," she said.