Myths were dispelled and questions were answered Monday as Pam Hewitt, Randolph County's assistant superintendent of schools, shared information about the new Common Core education standards with the county's Board of Education.
Donna Simmons, special education director, and Debbie Fincham, federal programs coordinator, presented a PowerPoint program for the Randolph BOE.
Hewitt told board members Superintendent Terry George asked her to put together some information regarding the Next Generation Content Standards, stating the additional information would be helpful, especially when fielding questions.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Randolph County Assistant Superintendent of Schools Pam Hewitt shares information detailing the Common Core educational standards Tuesday.
"West Virginia has always had standards, and they have gone under some revision," Hewitt said. "The standards we are currently working under are part of what our state adopted as the Common Core Standards. West Virginia chose to name theirs the Next Generation Common Core Standards."
Hewitt said the standards align with college and work expectations.
"We want to make certain that when our students graduate from high school, that they are ready for the world of work, or ready to continue with their education in college," Hewitt said. "That is one of the strong basis of the standards we are working with right now. The standards are clear, they are understandable and they are consistent... we see more application in our classrooms."
Hewitt said students are not only gaining the knowledge, but they are learning to apply it.
"These are evidence-based," Hewitt said. "We are asking our students to solve problems and be able to explain what they are doing. That might mean kids find the answers in different ways and different modes. But at long as they can produce evidence to support their answers, then they are acceptable."
Board member Ed Tyre asked Hewitt for clarification.
"The answers must be correct," Hewitt said. "The way you go about solving a problem might be a different approach than what I would use, but we both get to the same answer."
"So you cannot get it right by getting it wrong?" Tyre said.
"You have to have the correct answer," Hewitt said.
Hewitt said the standards are good for students because they provide clarity and consistency in what is expected of student learning and they prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.
The Next Generation program is good for teachers because it allows for more professional development and promotes collaboration. Hewitt said the standards give educators more time to focus on the depth of understanding and richer units rather than focusing on fitting everything in, and provides benchmarks for skills and knowledge that students should have by the end of the school year.
Hewitt said the standards are good for parents because they help parents understand exactly what students need to know and be able to do at each step in their education, and helps facilitate conversation between parents and teachers about how to help their children reach education goals.
"The Next Generation Standards ensure all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in postsecondary education and the workplace," Hewitt said. "The standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but lays the framework. Teachers determine how to best present the information to their students."
Hewitt explained that Common Core Standards are a state-led effort to give all students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
"The federal government has not been involved in the development of the standards and will not have a role in their implementation," Hewitt said. "Parents, teachers, school administrators and experts, together with state leaders, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices are leading the effort to develop a common core of state standards."
The presentation on Next Generation was prompted by a mid-August public meeting hosted by the West Virginia Patriots group in Elkins. The event featured the political group Constitutional Advocates, from Pleasants County, and their speaker Fred Dailey offering a presentation in opposition of Common Core and what they see as "nationalization of our education system."
The event was also attended by Tyre and several Randolph County school system employees. Tyre had asked in August for an educational presentation on the Common Core Standards at an upcoming board meeting.
The Common Core State Standards apply to grades K-12 in all public schools in 46 states, including West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
"My child is part of the kindergarten classroom that has 15 students," Buck said. "I am here to speak to you about getting an aide for her classroom. Students at this age are needy, I feel those needs can be best met by having an aide and a teacher."
Buck said she visited the state board website and found a policy saying one aid is assigned to a kindergarten class when enrollment exceeds 10 students.
"After reading this policy, I decided to contact the state to have them explain whether the policy met there had to be more than 10 students in the class," Buck said.
Buck said an official told her that, due to the nature of the kindergarten class, which also includes first- and second-graders, he feels an aide is essential to meet the needs of three different age groups.
"Harman School has a K-1 split class with 16 students and they have a teacher and an aid,e" Buck said. "So with that explanation, why have we not been given an aide for our K-2 split classroom?"
Buck also asked board members why out-of-zone students were being transported to George Ward Elementary.
"There are four students riding the bus that did not attend pre-kindergarten at George Ward and I wonder why they are being transported to George Ward?" Buck said. "Isn't that against board policy?"
Board members did not respond to Buck's question. Her comments will go on file at the board office.
Finally, board members voted to approve policy 3600, which provides private industry experience credit for career technical education teachers.
The next Randolph County Board of Education meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Sept. 16 at the central office.
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @IMT-Broschart.