Educators in the area share concerns with Natalie Tennant
HUNTINGTON -- Standardized testing and the Common Core curriculum dominated a roundtable discussion hosted by West Virginia Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Natalie Tennant at Marshall University on Thursday afternoon.
Tennant hosted the meeting in the Memorial Student Center on campus as a part of the announcement of her education agenda, the third in a series of policy proposals she is unveiling throughout the summer during a tour of West Virginia's 55 counties.
Nineteen teachers from Cabell, Putnam, Mingo and Kanahwa counties met with Tennant and told her about the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.
"When I come into this room and talk with all of you, I feel like I am at home," Tennant said in her opening remarks of the meeting. "I am from a family of teachers. My dad is a retired high school principal. My mom was a teacher. Four out of my five brothers are teachers as are three sisters-in-law. My sister is a teacher, and my brother-in-law is a teacher. Tables and conversations like this are nothing new to me."
Tennant, a Democrat, faces U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, in the November election that will determine who will succeed U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who is retiring after completing his current term. The race has attracted national attention as Republicans and Democrats battle to take control of the U.S. Senate.
The bulk of Thursday's hour-long conversation at MU was focused on standardized testing, including both West Virginia's WESTEST 2 and national standardized tests like the ACT.
Students seem to see the two tests in completely different lights and don't give as much effort on the tests in which they don't see as much purpose, said Sarah Logan, a teacher at Mingo Central Comprehensive High School.
Logan said her students took the ACT Plan test earlier during the school year and the WESTEST this spring.
"Their attitudes toward those tests were completely different," Logan said. "They took the ACT Plan seriously. I was able to say, 'We're going to be able to use this to decide what classes you take next year. This is like the real ACT,' and they gave it a really good shot because, to them, it had a purpose.
"We get to the spring, and they don't really care. When they ask, 'Why are we taking this test," and we can only say, 'It's so we can show what you learned this year,' they just go, 'Oh.' They're completely out of it."
When the conversation turned to Common Core, T.J. Cisco, a math teacher at Huntington High School, said he has found the consistency in the curriculum to be beneficial to him as he deals with massive influx and ouflow of students.
"I had over 100 students this year but never more than 56 on my roster at one time," Cisco siad. "They were coming and going. Whenever I get somebody who comes from a somewhere else and I ask them what they have been doing and if they recognize what I'm teaching, to have some type of normalcy to that, it's a big difference. At the most fundamental level at the Common Core, I see it as a big benefit."
Multiple teachers in the room concurred that West Virginia's implementation of the curriculum has made a difference in its effectiveness in the state.
After the meeting, Tennant said she found the experience to be educational in its own right.
"This was a wonderful opportunity to get together," Tennant said. "You get to see the feedback and you get to go back and forth. When I talk about bringing West Virginia values to Washington, here's where you see it, and here's where you learn about it. This has been a wonderful exchange of ideas."
Follow reporter Lacie Pierson on Twitter @LaciePiersonHD.
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