CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia is sticking with new standards for math, reading and writing in public schools, but faces opposition fueled by the tea party movement, which believes the benchmarks are part of an attempted federal takeover of local education authority.
The state Board of Education continues to pursue what are known as the Common Core State Standards, with a goal of phasing them in by the 2014-2015 school year. Adopted by 45 states so far, they attempt to set detailed benchmarks for students that are clear to parents and uniform across the differing school systems and districts.
For eighth-grade geometry, for instance, the standards call for students to solve real-world math problems involving the volume of cylinders, cones and spheres. By the end of high school, meanwhile, students should be able to analyze a Shakespeare play, among other works of literature. The standards envision first-graders writing book reports that explain the student's opinion while also featuring a beginning and an end.
West Virginia is calling its version the Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives. Aided by the state Department of Education, the 55 county schools systems already have adapted them to kindergarten coursework as well as to the first, fourth, fifth and ninth grades.
The state board voted at its meeting last week to open a 30-day public comment period for some of the policies changed as a result of the emerging standards. One policy change revamps math benchmarks, while the other updates standards for second-grade reading and writing.
But the board also heard from a delegation led by state Sen. Donna Boley that wants the standards scrapped. Among other concerns, the http://on.fb.me/178hhNS">opponents alleged that Common Core strips schools and counties of local oversight while handing over more control to the federal government. They also object to the collecting of student data in the name of assessing the standards' performance.
"We're turning our education system into a national education system," Boley said Friday.
Backed by tea party and conservative groups, such critics have emerged throughout the states that have adopted the standards. Besides trying to repeal the benchmarks, Common Core opponents have sought to have them de-funded or delayed. A Pleasants County Republican, Boley led fellow GOP senators during this year's session in seeking legislative scrutiny of the Common Core standards. She expects the topic to be studied during the Legislature's monthly interim meetings.
Supporters of the Next Generation benchmarks include a veteran teacher from Boley's district. Kriss Bodnar taught in Pleasants County schools for 36 years, and explains the standards in a video posted on the state Department of Education website. She helped develop the standards through an effort headed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers that began before President Barack Obama took office.
"The standards themselves are a state-based initiative. (The multistate groups) were the driving force to gather the people to write the standards," Bodnar told The Associated Press. "Nationwide, all students would be striving for the same goals as they go through their education."