Tracie West has successfully made the transition from local school board member to the State Board of Education, and she is finding her new position challenging and enjoyable.
West served on the Auburn City Schools Board of Education for nine-and-a-half years, serving terms as both vice president and president, before being elected to the State Board last November. She represents Alabama’s 2nd district, which stretches along the Georgia border in east Alabama from Clay County in the north all the way south to the Florida state line.
West says she is impressed with the “passion” so many people in Alabama have for public education.
West took a seat on the state panel just as a controversial issue — proposed abandonment of Common Core standards — became topical. State Sen. Dale Marsh (R-Anniston) is sponsoring legislation that would remove Alabama from the national standards.
The bill has passed the Senate and can be considered by the House when lawmakers return from spring break next week.
Such matters are normally left to the elected State Board of Education (SBE), but Marsh went so far as to state that the SBE was “dysfunctional.”
West did not want to get into a spat with such an influential member of the Legislature, but she says, “I am sure Senator Marsh is speaking of past frustration. It is my hope to be part of a high-functioning Board that is student-focused. My fellow board members have been very welcoming.”
West says that even though she is a new member, she will strive to keep open the lines of communication.
Common Core was an initiative of the National Governor’s Conference aimed at assuring basically that students in the various grades study the same things at the same time in different states.
Critics complain that it is cumbersome and does away with “local control.” Originally, about 45 states adopted Common Core, but in the past decade a half-dozen or so have abandoned the math and English curriculum.
Marsh’s legislation also includes a controversial provision stating that changes in the curriculum standards in the future would have to go through the Legislature under provisions of the Legislative Procedures Act.
West did not disagree with Marsh that Common Core should be replaced, stating, “Common Core was promised to deliver results that parents and educators have not seen. We now have the opportunity to write new standards of study.”
West says those standards should be left to the elected State Board of Education, through its various committees and staff that seek educator and public input.
She noted that once standards are tentatively developed, they go to State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey, who makes a recommendation to State Board members.
“This process will be made much more difficult if legislative oversight is part of the plan,” West says. “We may hold up good standards changes for months and this is not what citizens want. They expect us to move forward and not waste time and their dollars.”