Common Core foes make pitch

PARKERSBURG – Hoping to facilitate discussion and expose a different viewpoint, members of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley and several educators took part in a presentation on educational standards Monday from a group concerned about the over-reaching efforts of the federal government.

Angie Summers with West Virginia Against Common Core spoke to members of the chamber Monday regarding concern for Common Core Standards for school children in West Virginia.

She labeled the Common Core the “greatest threat ever to our nation.”

The state Board of Education continues to pursue Common Core State Standards with a goal of phasing it in by the 2014-2015 school year. Adopted by 45 states so far, the standards attempt to set detailed benchmarks for students that are clear to parents and uniform across school systems and districts.

Some conservative groups are alarmed by the effort.

Summers said her group was concerned about the loss of state control, personal voice, state autonomy, the establishment of centralized control, the nationalization of education and the creation of a national database of student information.

Summers said the standards are voluntary, but “the government put its size-12 boot on the necks of states” by threatening to withhold funding for those that refuse to adopt the standards.

“How voluntary is that,” she said. “We are worried about the over-reach of the federal government.”

State Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, has been a legislative advocate for the group for several months taking the issue to the state Legislature, the state Board of Education and anyone else who will listen.

“Our biggest problem is getting legislators, educating the public and business people – anyone who will listen – and then form your own opinion,” she said.

Summers’ 20-minute presentation was quickly taken to task by a pair of distinguished former Wood County educators, Toni DeVore and Susan Naylor.

DeVore, who chairs the graduate education program at Ohio Valley University, served as math and science supervisor of Wood County Schools for more than 18 years. She was an multi-award-winning teacher in the Wood County school system.

Boley praised DeVore for past work with state lawmakers with regard to educational legislation.

Naylor also is a former award-winning and nationally recognized educator from the school system.

“You are in error,” she said to Summers, pointing to a number of inaccuracies in her presentation.

Summers raised Common Core concerns about high-stakes testing, machine-scored tests, student databases, teacher pay for student performance and costs associated with the implementation of Common Core.

Naylor, DeVore and at least two other educators said many of these things are already being done by school systems nationwide.

“Some of the issues have to do with education, not Common Core,” Naylor said. “Common Core is one answer trying to address issues facing education as a whole. It’s not the evil you make it out to be.”

“I don’t have all the answers,” Summers said, “I’m here with worries. Why does the federal government need all the information?”

“You can protest the database without protesting Common Core,” DeVore said.

Associate State Superintendent Robert Hull told the Associated Press opponents may be confusing standards with curriculum.

“That’s still locally driven,” he said. “The curriculum is all about how we are going to get there and what materials we are going to use.”

Hull said he’s heard all manner of rumors about the data collection, very little of it true.

“The information we’re talking about is nothing more than what we’ve always collected from students,” Hull said. “The schools and the district own the data, and it is not shared outside of them. We’ll know on a state level how schools and districts perform.”

About 25 people attended Monday’s presentation. More than a dozen were members of the chamber.

A number of educators also were present, including Mike Winland, director of secondary schools for Wood County Schools, representing Superintendent Pat Law.

Jill Parsons, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said the chamber has taken no position on Common Core.

The chamber’s role is to facilitate these types of discussions, she said.

“I’m excited to learn a viewpoint about it,” she said.