National standards will improve schools
The state Board of Education plans to go ahead with adoption of the Common Core State Standards beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, joining 45 other states.
Having a commonality in educational goals across the land is important in many ways. It will help assure that students from West Virginia will be able to compete with their counterparts in other states when it comes to jobs and post-secondary education.
However, in adopting these standards board members also should give a full airing to the objections from people even if they do not have doctorates in education management.
"We're turning our education system into a national education system," said state Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants.
Her fear is reasonable. Schools work best under local control because, among other benefits, it results in local support.
This is why West Side Elementary became Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary. There was a groundswell of support for adding the beloved educator's name, and with the name change came community involvement.
Perhaps the problem is communication. Associate State Superintendent Robert Hull said people may be confusing core standards with core curriculum.
"That's still locally driven," Hull said. "The curriculum is all about how we are going to get there and what materials we are going to use."
There's no question that national standards are needed to hold educators accountable. The products of West Virginia's schools must compete in state, national and even global economies.
If that is the purpose of the Common Core State Standards, it's a laudable goal.
However, some people are worried that other goals are in play - more federalization of schools and more collection of student data.
The state school board needs to listen to these critics and weigh what it is hearing from both sides. It's no accident that board members are not professional educators. Their charge is to do what's best for West Virginia students.