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BOE, Campbell discuss Common Core

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the board of education meeting Monday night, Delegate Denise Campbell addressed the board with her concerns and questions about Common Core Standards.

Campbell serves on the house education committee and said Common Core will be part of the interim meetings coming up in the state legislature in September.

“Common Core is going to be brought back up again, and I’m not really for sure if the county here has any views on Common Core,” she said. “I would love to hear what your comments are because I have a feeling Common Core will be raising its head at the next legislative session and we will have to vote on it.”

Pocahontas County High School math teacher Laurel Dilley was in attendance at the meeting and gave Campbell her opinion on the standards.

“I like that we teach algebra, geometry and statistics every single year now, a little bit of each and it just builds on each other as you go along,” Dilley said. “So in ninth grade, you have basic algebra skills, basic geometry skills and basic statistics and then it keeps going as you get into higher grades.

“I only speak for the high school,” she continued. “I think that helps the kids. Instead of one year of algebra and then you have geometry for a whole year, and then you have to go back to algebra two and you forgot what happened in algebra one, it’s so disconnected. I really like the fluency of everything building on each other all year.”

Campbell said she has heard from many concerned parents and teachers who feel the standards are not working in the schools, but she is also hearing that it is working in some areas. One of her biggest concerns is – if Common Core is repealed – what will happen to the students who have been following the standards for the past three years.

“If you have this plan that you’re building on – if you are going to do this in seventh grade, do this in eighth grade, and you’re going to do this in ninth – and we turn around and change all that, what’s that going to do to the students and the process of how we were planning on getting them to have the whole picture within their twelve years of school if we change how we’re doing it.”

Interim superintendent Terrence Beam added to the concern by saying the West Virginia Department of Education has invested a lot of money, time and effort into effectively rolling out the Common Core Standards and it would seem like a waste if the standards were dropped.

“What you have to understand is Common Core is a set of standards,” he said. “They’re very rigorous standards, but they’re standards. If we throw Common Core out, that doesn’t mean something is not going to replace it. They spent millions of dollars on training – to train people the last three or four years to get ready for Common Core.”

All the textbooks that have been adopted in the past three years have been geared toward Common Core in order to follow the standards. If the standards are repealed, Beam said the schools will have to continue using the books.

“If you throw it out, what kind of books are you going to teach under?” he asked. “You’re still going to teach with the same books you did when Common Core existed. So you’re going to have to retrain everybody again and, I think I can speak for teachers and say this, they get tired after awhile and I’ve heard them say this, ‘there’s no sense in us investing ourselves that deeply into something. They’ll change the standards in a couple of years anyway and we’ll start all over.’ That’s the other side of it. I personally think that throwing it out and starting all over is going to put us back farther.”

Campbell thanked everyone for the input and said she will continue to update the board as changes are made in the education committee.

Computer science added to curriculum

Students are speaking in code and it’s a good thing. PCHS math teacher Laurel Dilley gave the board an update on the new computer science class she is teaching this year.

“Last year we were asked to think of an elective in the math department that we would like to offer and we unanimously decided that computer science would be the best one,” she said. “Lots of the kids came back and said they had trouble in their math classes, engineering classes, because they hadn’t been exposed to any programming or CS concepts.”

Dilley used a computer science activity in her financial class last year and got several of the students hooked. The activity, ConAcademy, funded by Google, is a programming project which gives $100 for every female student who finishes the course.

“There were so many girls that were into it,” Dilley said. “I’ve always liked programming so I thought it would be fun. There were so many girls that completed the whole entire curriculum on ConAcademy that we bought four iPads for the math department.”

The students are excited and several have shown interest in pursuing computer science as a college degree.

“They’re really excited about it and it’s not just programming,” Dilley said. “They’re learning the basics of computer science – how do humans interact with a computer, what is binary, how do you speak to a computer before you even get into the different languages that you could learn. The kids all want to jump in and just do programming. They all think they’re all going to be making Apps and everything.”

Along with Dilley teaching the course, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory is assisting and sending different employees once a week to assist with the class.

The curriculum was designed by UCLA and is completely free to the school system.

“They wrote this curriculum to get it out to rural schools or schools that don’t have access to computer science teachers,” Dilley said. “It’s supposed to be a very basic introductory course for any kid who’s interested in computer science.”

The class is currently offered to seniors, although Dilley hopes to expand the perimeters next year.

“There’s ten kids enrolled which doesn’t seem like a lot, but there’s only sixty-five kids in the senior class,” she said. “Six of those kids, so almost ten percent of the senior class, want to major in computer engineering and computer science which is really exciting.”

The board thanked Dilley for her report.

In updates:

• Beam thanked everyone for meeting with State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano, who toured three schools in the county last Thursday. Beam said he was appreciative of Martirano’s visit and was impressed by his interaction with the students and teachers.

“He had a really good visit,” Beam said. “He’s a very talkative fellow. I told him, I’ve been in this state for sixty-four years now and I’ve never heard of a state superintendent going to all fifty-five counties to meet with the schools. I think that’s a very commendable thing for him to do.”

• Director of Child Nutrition Lisa Dennison gave a report to the board concerning the food services program. The new cooking hood in the PCHS kitchen was recently installed. The equipment was purchased with a $24,000 grant from the state.

Dennison also answered questions about free lunches in the schools. She said free lunch isn’t really free and it would cost the school system approximately $200,000 more to offer every student free lunch.

Dennison mentioned the program Feed to Achieve, which is a cooperative with local businesses in order to have free lunches. She is looking into implementing the program, but is still in the process of gathering information.

The next board meeting will be Monday, September 14, at 7 p.m. at the board of education conference room.

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