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Editorial: Clearer educational standards should aid, not hurt, students

Jun. 17, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

West Virginia's continued progress toward implementing educational goals known as Common Core State Standards is the right move, despite complaints of critics who allege ominous motives for the program.

The main criticisms, advanced by tea party groups, appear to be unfounded and basically discard the logical benefits of implementing the Common Core Standards in West Virginia.

Fortunately, the state's Department of Education is moving ahead in developing, adopting and implementing the standards.

The Common Core State Standards initiative is a state-led effort to establish clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. The initiative was launched and continues to be led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, with input from teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country along with state leaders.

States can voluntarily adopt the standards, and 45 have done so already. The end goal is to provide clear year-to-year objectives about what students should learn, as well as seeing that they are adequately prepared to continue their education or enter the workforce after graduating from high school.

Critics contend, however, that the Common Core State Standards represent an attempted takeover of education by the federal government. In addition, they allege that gathering information about students and their performance in meeting the standards amounts to "data mining" for improper purposes, such as profiteering. Some fear that the system is -- or will be -- used to collect information related to religious and political backgrounds or leanings.

State education officials contend that's not true -- that collection of information will be the same as it has been in the past. It also must be noted that the federal government did not form this initiative and that states can adopt the standards voluntarily, as West Virginia is doing. The state's Department of Education also notes that nearly 100 West Virginia teachers spent months adapting the math and English language arts content and standards as they will be applied in the Mountain State.

Already, the state's 55 county school systems have adapted the new standards for kindergarten coursework as well as to the first, fourth, fifth and ninth grades. Earlier this month, the state's Board of Education approved more policy changes related to the developing standards for other grade levels.

There's no question that West Virginia's schools and students must improve their performance. The state lags most other states in most educational achievement rankings. Adoption of the Common Core State Standards should allow the state's educational system to benefit from best practices and proven strategies from around the country. To reject that opportunity based on so-far groundless fears of a national takeover or "data mining" would only shortchange the state's children.

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