Beyond any doubt, allowing public school teachers to focus on what is important their students learn is a good thing. Adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative should help them do that.
That said, teachers still need the flexibility to address students with different needs, to adapt pedagogical techniques to specific circumstances and to educate outside any "box." In other words, they need to be permitted to use common sense.
Public schools throughout West Virginia will be required to change mathematics, English and language arts curriculums to bring them into compliance with the Common Core State Standards, the state Department of Education announced this week. The standards are a national initiative aimed at identifying specific knowledge students should learn from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Use of a carefully researched set of standards should help teachers and students. It will allow them to concentrate on truly necessary information, while spending less time on topics that are not vital.
Still, use of the new standards creates another sort of "box" for teachers. They should retain some flexibility.
And they should not succumb to fads that, while popular now, fly in the face of common sense.
For example, in discussing new standards for mathematics, state DOE official Liza Cordeiro said they will mean "learning through hands-on approaches. No more rote memorization."
Cordeiro may have misspoken or may have just been attempting to make a point. Hands-on learning certainly is best most of the time. But rote memorization has its place, too. Students have to have certain knowledge - multiplication tables, for example - to be able to apply it.
State officials wisely did not adopt the national standards in their entirety. Some modifications were made to fit the new rules to West Virginia.
Even more changes should be made if the new curriculums do not appear to be making positive changes. Once they are implemented, DOE officials should waste no time in seeking feedback from classroom teachers - who may have important suggestions for improvement.