Monroe Middle School teacher Dawn Norris hears a difference in her language arts classes since she starting using Common Core standards two years ago. It’s how the 13-year teacher knows the new standards are working.
Middle schools across Florida will begin using the new math and language arts standards when classes start this fall. But most middle schools in the Tampa area, where Monroe is located, are already using Common Core.
John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida
Monroe Middle School teacher Dawn Norris talks to her students about how to write an essay about fairy tales. Norris has been teaching based on the Common Core standards for two years. Since making the switch, she says her students have taken more control of the lessons.
Common Core has been fully adopted by 45 states. But the standards have been criticized for their quality, for reducing local control over classroom content and for continuing emphasis on student test results to determine whether teachers and schools are successful.
“What I’ve noticed in my classes now is they’re loud. And that’s OK,” Norris said. “Where in the old days it was, no, you want that silent classroom, but the more they talk, they’re all on task. They’re all working on that same common goal.”
Parents would be able to choose more broadly form Palm Beach County public schools if the school board approves a new proposal. The district would be divided into zones, giving parents at least a half-dozen other schools from which to choose. The district believes the proposal could save money by reducing class sizes.
“We would have 100 percent school choice,” School Board member Mike Murgio said.
The proposal, still in its early stages of development, could help the district compete with charter schools, which have no specific attendance zones and have been attracting a growing number of public school students. The idea may even save the district $18 million due to more lenient class size reduction requirements for choice schools, said Peter Licata, director of career and choice options.
State law requires that the size of classes be limited to 18 for elementary grades, 22 for middle grades and 25 for high schools. But Licata said state law allows “choice schools” to comply based on overall school averages, rather than each individual classroom. That would prevent the district from having to hire a new teacher if a classroom is just a few students over the limit.
The SAT will no longer require a written essay from students taking the test, starting in 2016. However, many colleges may still require the essay. The SAT is also partnering with Khan Academy to offer a series of free, online test prep videos.
Those shifts, officials said, are part of a wider effort to better align the exam with what students learn in high school and will need in college — and away from the advantages they may gain from expensive private tutoring.
For example, the revised sections in reading will drop their most obscure vocabulary words and instead “focus on words students will use over and over again,” said College Board President David Coleman. The math problems will be less theoretical and more linked to real-life questions.
“While we build on the best of the past, we commit today that the redesigned SAT will be more focused and useful, more clear and open than ever before,” Coleman said at a meeting in Austin, Texas, that was broadcast on the Internet.
In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott promoted his $18.8 billion budget for education.
NEA Public Relations/flickr
FEA President Andy Ford
But if it were up to Florida Education Association president Andy Ford, there would be even more money going to Florida’s public schools.
The Florida Education Association is the state umbrella group for Florida teachers’ unions. Before the legislative session began, Ford sat down with StateImpact Florida to talk about policy priorities this year.
Q: Where is FEA on the Common Core State Standards now?
A: We support the standards and even the Florida version of the standards. We think those improvements were actually for the better. But we have some problems with the implementation. There hasn’t been sufficient time put in place to move from one system to the other. We also don’t have the resources to be able to make the transition. And we’re just moving too quickly, we need to slow it down a little.
This year teachers are teaching the standards. The test the kids are going to take is based on the old standards. So there’s going to be some confusion there. Continue Reading →
The bill looks similar to recommendations made last month by state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. It eliminates the bonus points schools can earn, as well as the so-called triggers that automatically cause a school grade to drop. It also removes several factors from the complex formula used to evaluate high schools, including five-year graduation rates and some college readiness measures.
Schools would continue to receive A-F grades during the transition to a new formula. But there would be no consequences for poor performance in the first year.
The education committee made two tweaks to Stewart’s original recommendations. They added a provision that would give middle schools credit for participation and performance in high-school classes. They also added language that would exempt children with complex disabilities from state testing, in response to recent discussions about the plight of profoundly disabled children.
As Florida prepares to move to new K-12 math and language arts standards this fall, state Democrats have joined school superintendents and the Florida PTA in asking for a three-year delay before school performance is judged using Common Core.
School grades are partly based on student test results. Tests tied to the new Common Core standards are expected to be more difficult, and perhaps half as many Florida students will meet state goals.
Gov. Rick Scott is asking lawmakers to revoke a law which allows state universities to request up to an additional 15 percent tuition increase.
Gov. Rick Scott is asking lawmakers to eliminate the state’s tuition differential law, which allows universities to request as much as a 15 percent tuition increase each year.
Scott has fought higher education tuition hikes since he took office in 2011.
“We are changing how we fund higher education,” Scott said, according to the prepared version of his State of the State speech, “but if we want to make higher education more accessible to low and middle-income families we have to make it more affordable.
“We will hold the line on tuition,” he added moments later.
Education will be a major theme in Gov. Rick Scott’s State of the State speech today. Scott will push lawmakers to eliminate a law which allow universities to request up to a 15 percent tuition increase.
“Every parent wants their child to get a great education… and for many that doesn’t end at high school.
“That’s why we are recommending $80 million in our budget this year for those colleges and universities who graduate students best positioned to get a job.
“We are changing how we fund higher education… but if we want to make higher education more accessible to low and middle-income families…
“We have to make it more affordable. Last year, I vetoed a tuition increase that would have taken a total of more than $42 million from Florida families.
“And, this year, with your help, we want to get rid of the 15 percent annual increase and inflationary increase on tuition. Undoing these 2007 and 2009 laws is another way we can keep higher education affordable and accessible.
Common Core protestors at February's State Board of Education Meeting in Orlando. They aren't giving up, but lawmakers say the conversation about Common Core is moving on.
Sondra Hulette and her granddaughter joined dozens of anti-Common Core protestors as they circled a fountain outside the Orange County school district offices last month.
Inside the building, the State Board of Education was about to rename Common Core as “The Florida Standards.” But outside, Hulette and others chanted “Stop Common Core!” “Keep education local!” and “Follow the money!”
Common Core are math and language arts standards adopted by Florida and 44 other states. They outline what students should know at the end of each grade.
But Hulette and many others oppose the standards because they are concerned about losing local control over classroom decisions, cost and other factors.
Hulette’s granddaughter is homeschooled, but she worries college placement exams are being written to the standards. And that would force parents of homeschooled students to address the standards or possibly leave their kids unprepared for the exams.
“I don’t want what’s happening in the public school to infiltrate what I have the authority over as homeschoolers,” Hulette said. “It’s going to impose some things on her that are illogical.”
Opposition to the standards has dominated Florida’s education conversation the past year, but Christina Phillips’ sixth grade language arts students at Monroe Middle School in Tampa wouldn’t know that from their school work. Phillips’ lessons have been Common Core-based for the past two years.