What are the standards?
The West Virginia Next Generation Standards are a set of higher expectations in mathematics and ELA that were developed by state leaders to ensure every student graduates high school prepared for the future. These new standards replace West Virginia's former set of expectations for students. The West Virginia Next Generation Standards are essential to creating an education system that prepares our young people for success in school, work and life. The West Virginia Next Generation Standards raise the bar for what our students learn in math and ELA, giving them the ability to think critically, absorb information, draw conclusions and communicate verbally and in writing. The standards emphasize mastery of the 21st century skills necessary to be life-long learners; ensuring students will be prepared for the world that awaits them after graduation.
Why transition to new standards?
West Virginia chose to set higher expectations for students by adopting Next Generation Standards for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics in 2011. Our state's policymakers, legislators, business leaders and parents were concerned that West Virginia students are not prepared for college and the workforce. Thirty-two percent of West Virginia graduates take remediation courses in postsecondary education. Twenty-three percent of West Virginia graduates do not return to postsecondary education the second year. By moving to the West Virginia Next Generation Standards, West Virginia is ensuring that our students are held to the same high expectations as students across the country. West Virginia Next Generation Standards for mathematics and ELA were designed by nearly 100 educators from across the state who reviewed and customized the Common Core State Standards.
The new standards, which became fully effective in the 2014-15 school year, focus on developing students' critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills — real world skills students need to be successful in today's workforce. In addition, West Virginia's new standards focus on a deeper understanding of materials, not just basic memorization and test-taking skills. Finally, the new standards are clear and focused, allowing teachers to explore important topics in-depth, rather than skimming the surface of numerous topics to prepare students for tests.
How are standards different from curriculum?
The West Virginia Next Generation Standards set goals for what students should be able to know, understand and do at each grade level, but they are not a curriculum. Local school districts and their teachers will continue to customize, choose and design their own curricula. The West Virginia Department of Education provides a list of state- approved instructional materials to assist counties with this process. Teachers continue to create individual lesson plans with learning goals and instructional practices that are utilized daily in their classrooms. If the standards represent the finish line or final destination, the curriculum represents the different paths that can be taken to get there. To ensure all teachers are prepared, education leaders at the state, regional and local level have worked deligently since 2011 on training efforts.
What is different about the standards?
The new standards are designed to be relevant, reflecting skills students need to succeed in college and careers. These skills reflect grade-level appropriateness by increasing in complexity and rigor as students progress to higher grade levels. The new standards are clear and focused, allowing teachers to explore in-depth important topics in both mathematics and ELA.
The ELA standards require that students become critical readers, not only of fiction, but also of informational texts. Students must show they are able to read and comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school; in doing so, students become critical readers and thinkers who can independently read a range of texts. The standards also require students develop written and verbal communication skills to effectively relate ideas and information.
In mathematics, the West Virginia Next Generation Standards are built on progressions. A basic mathematical concept introduced in kindergarten may be taught on a six-year-old level, only to grow more complex and rigorous as the child progresses through the grades. Students have the opportunity to deeply learn math concepts through exposure, experience and building prior knowledge. Each grade level teacher is expected to fully develop concepts which will build upon skills the student will use in the next grade level.