Florida's Common Core Standards: No Need for 'Any Great Change,' Educators Tell State

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Winter Springs, Fla.

Florida’s Common Core academic standards are demanding but also are helping students make gains while the state’s proposed replacements are weaker, vaguer and represent a “step backwards” for public education, educators told state leaders at a “Florida Standards Listening Tour” event.

More than a dozen teachers and administrators, most from Seminole County but a few from neighboring Orange and Volusia counties, on Tuesday evening urged the state not to make significant changes to Florida’s current language arts and math benchmarks or to adopt the less-demanding replacements the state has drafted.

“This lowering of expectations will lead to gaps in our students’ learning,” said Pamela Ferrante, a literacy specialist for the Seminole school district. "These changes are a step backwards.”

Other speakers at the Florida Department of Education event, held at Seminole’s Winter Springs High School, agreed.

“I don’t think the standards need to change,” said Mary Ellen Freeman, a secondary math administrator for the Orange County school district. “I’m worried that we’re moving backward and will no longer be competitive."

Florida’s current standards are a version of the Common Core benchmarks adopted at one point by 45 states at the urging of the Obama administration. They spell out what students should learn in language arts and math classes, kindergarten to 12th grade.

Florida first adopted them in 2010 then tweaked and rebranded them Florida Standards in 2014 as part of an effort to demand more of students so more would graduate ready for college or decent-paying jobs.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis, echoing the complaints that some conservatives nationally have raised, ran for office last year on a promise to get rid of Common Core. Soon after the Republican was elected, he signed an executive order to do that and ordered the education department to draft replacements.


See Also: Common Core Scrapped Under Florida Gov.'s Executive Order


The education department, which last week released another draft of its proposed standards, is to report back to DeSantis in January.

The listening tour includes nine scheduled stops. The one in Winter Springs was the second.

Chancellor Jacob Oliva, who oversees K-12 schools at the education department, was the state’s point person at Tuesday’s meeting. He told the audience the proposed standards were devised with teachers, professors and other experts and aimed to provide clear guidance for classroom instructors. He ended the meeting by saying, “We appreciate the dialog and the feedback.”

Many school leaders say Florida teachers have adjusted to Common Core and come to see its benefits, making them reluctant to want to embrace a new blueprint for what they should cover in class.

“The rigor needs to stay in place,” said Sarah Hall, a first grade teacher at Longwood Elementary School and her district’s 2019 “teacher of the year.”

In surveys and online comments solicited by the education department, many teachers have conveyed the same views. More than 80 percent of those who reviewed the third-grade language arts standards, for example, said “no change needed," survey results showed.

Marjorie Murray, an administrator for Seminole schools, noted that Florida was a standout in 2017 when it was one of a few states where students showed gains on math and reading tests given as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an improvement credited to its Common Core standards.

“That would not suggest the need for a major overall,” she told state officials, or a reason to replace current standards with what she called the state’s weaker proposal.

A few speakers urged the state to consider reducing its standardized testing requirements as part of its standards review, as the tests assess the standards taught in public schools.

Andy Dubois with the Florida Citizens Alliance, a group that opposes Common Core and supports DeSantis’ action, told state leaders the group wants “world class standards” and to “stop political, religious and pornographic indoctrination of students.”

Most speakers, however, were public school educators whose views seemed summed up by those of Robin Dehlinger, executive director for elementary education in the Seminole school district. "I personally don’t feel there’s a need for any great change," she said.

Michelle Fitzpatrick, a Seminole reading specialist, said the proposed standards aren’t as helpful to teachers, who have spent a lot of time mastering the current version. “They leave Florida’s teachers with vague, unclear expectations,” she said.

Common Core standards were meant to be in depth, focusing less on rote memorization and more on conceptual understanding, problem-solving and reading more complex texts.

But they have been controversial, with some conservatives arguing they represented a federal intrusion into local education decisions, and others questioning whether they were age-appropriate or just an excuse for more high-stakes testing in public schools. Parents complained that with Common Core elementary math lessons left them perplexed and unsure how to help their children with homework and schools failed to teach cursive writing.

Several teachers told the state it took awhile for teachers to understand the current standards and teach them well, so changing them now will just frustrate them and hurt their students.

“You are pulling the rug out from under them,” said Seminole teacher JoAnna Marino. “If you think Florida has a teacher shortage right now, just wait.”

Others noted new standards would cost lots of money, as teachers would need training on how to teach them, school districts would need to buy new textbooks and other academic materials, and the state would need to revamp state tests so they assess the new requirements.

Some speakers acknowledged the current standards are demanding and sometimes frustrate parents—but they also said that doesn’t mean they aren’t helping students.

Related Blog

Rachel Novella, a science specialist for Seminole schools, said the current math standards make parents say, “That’s not how I learned math.” But they give students a “solid, conceptual understanding" that better prepares them to tackle more advanced math and science topics when they’re older.

"Its the best option we have out there right now, so that’s what I want for my child,” she said.

“The standards we currently have are what we need to move our students forward,” agreed a Volusia teacher. “I don’t think we need new standards, " she added, "but I’m aware of the political process at hand.”

Web Only

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented