Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Supporters, Opponents Of Florida’s Common Education Standards Have Their Say In Tampa

Emma Jane Miller speaks against Common Core State Standards Tuesday. She said standards developed with support from private groups is education without representation.

John O'Connor

Emma Jane Miller speaks against Common Core State Standards Tuesday. She said using standards developed with support from private groups is education without representation.

Lory Baxley said she drove two hours to discuss her complaints about Common Core standards after checking out her son’s math assignments.

Baxley’s son earned top scores on the FCAT, but now he’s worried if he’ll pass fourth grade. She blamed Common Core.

“About four weeks into the first grading period I noticed a difference in my fourth grader and a difference in his coursework,” Baxley told more than 200 people at Hillsborough Community College. “The math was hodgepodge – no sequence. My son had everything from a line graph to an algebraic problem, as well as numerous different ways to multiply, all on the same homework sheet.”

Florida is one of 45 states to fully adopt the standards. They outline what students should know in math and English at the end of each grade. Kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms are using Common Core now. Other grades are using a blend of Common Core and Florida’s previous standards. Next year, every grade is scheduled to exclusively use Common Core.

Common Core has broad support among educators, but is also facing a rising number of critics.

They say the standards aren’t as good as Florida’s current standards, will require the state to give up local control, and require too much testing among other concerns.

Those criticisms convinced Gov. Rick Scott to request the three public meetings this week, the first of which was in Tampa.

Hillsborough County high school reading coach Jennifer Canady disagrees with the critics. She likes that Common Core challenges her lowest-performing students with literature.

“The best part of it was at the end they said to me ‘Mrs. Canady, this was fun,’ she said of an assignment. “Because for the first time they were really able to access complex text.”

The hearings are supposed to focus on specific standards in order to suggest improvements. But, mostly, the hearing was a series of testimonials about the standards.

Lory Reddel is also a reading coach who supports Common Core – but the standards debate hits home for her.

“As a parent this is a heart-felt perspective. I had a struggling reader,” Baxley said, briefly overcome by the emotion of the story. “But in our district because we started the implementation of the Common Core expectations, she comes home eager to read. It’s the Common Core standards that have changed that perspective and changed the life of my child. So I just want (you) to know I’m pro-Common Core.”

Tina Neace believed the standards have an ideological bent she can’t support.

More than 200 people attended public meeting to hear criticism and support of Common Core standards.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

More than 200 people attended public meeting to hear criticism and support of Common Core standards.

“As a mom, I am most concerned about being able to help my children reach their very best potential,” she said. “But I am concerned that this Common Core does the very opposite. It is a political agenda, not an educational standard.”

At times the discussion veered into arguing with straw men, tangents and falsehoods. Speakers often conflated other education policies with Common Core. Some just used their four minutes to rail against a decade’s worth of testing and grading schools.

For a brief moment, Common Core critic Cindy Skarda challenged education commissioner Pam Stewart about the cost.

“Are there any cost analysis?” Skarda asked.

“I don’t think we’ve done a cost analysis,” Stewart responded.

“Oh really?” Skarda interrupted. “We don’t know what it’s going to cost but we’re going to implement it?”

Volusia County school board member Candace Lankford said the state must make sure it's choosing the right test for Common Core standards.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Volusia County school board member Candace Lankford said the state must make sure it's choosing the right test for Common Core standards.

“Would you like me answer?” Stewart shot back. “The standards were free for us to adopt.”

“For how long?” Skarda cut in again.

“Our standards don’t cost us anything to implement — or to have as standards,” Stewart said, noting the state already pays for teacher training, testing and new textbooks on a regular schedule. “I don’t believe that there’s an additional cost.”

Education officials will hold hearings in Davie Wednesday and Tallahassee Thursday.

They say they plan to gather speaker thoughts and more than five thousand comments submitted online and recommend adjustments to State Board of Education in the next month or two.

Comments

  • jason taylor

    We have been teaching to the test for so many years teachers had forgotten how to reach their student. This is just anther teach to the test system that will continue to harm our children’s education. I was at the meeting last and was upset the school system loaded up the speaker box with teachers and reading coaches instead of concerned parents. Fact of the matter all these teachers and reading coaches credited common core for them actually doing what they should have been before common core. TEACHING!!!

    • Kteacher

      Like myself, these teachers like Common Core because the standards are less nebulous than the previous Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. You are correct in the statement that teachers have been and are teaching to the test. That is the way the system is currently set up. Most teachers would probably be okay with getting rid of standards and testing, because we are actually educated people who can follow curricula, but right now we have been told that the the reputations of our schools, funding that reaches our students, and our very jobs depend on how closely we follow these standards and how well our students perform on these tests. This is what happens when you select poor state leadership who would rather try to look good on a report than actually help kids.

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