Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

State Board Tweaks Standards Despite Objections

Protestors object to Common Core math and language arts standards outside a State Board of Education meeting in Orlando.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Protestors object to Common Core math and language arts standards outside a State Board of Education meeting in Orlando.

The State Board of Education approved changes to the state’s K-12 standards that keeps calculus and cursive writing, and clarifies and adjusts when some standards are taught.

The board approved the changes despite dozens of parents and activists asking the board to rescind the standards. The vote marks another –possibly final — transformation for Florida’s K-12 math, English and language arts standards known as Common Core. Florida is one of 45 states which have fully adopted Common Core.

The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said debate over the content of the standards is over.

“I think that the vote that the board took today certainly does lay to rest where we’re headed,” she said, “the direction we’re going with our standards. This is the right move.”

The vote changes the name to the Florida Standards. Stewart said that name is more accurate because it also includes other Florida standards in science, civics and other subjects.

But changing the name isn’t like to assuage growing dissatisfaction across the country on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum. Conservatives worry the standards cede local control over classroom content to the federal government. Liberals don’t like the emphasis on testing. Both sides worry the standards may be too difficult for elementary-aged children.

A man holds up a copy of the Constitution to oppose Common Core before a State Board of Education meeting in Orlando.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

A man holds up a copy of the Constitution to oppose Common Core standards before a State Board of Education meeting in Orlando.

“I’m not just my children’s father — I’m their dad,” said Gabriel Aviles, slamming the lectern. “And I will fight for them. And as a tech guy, I’m warning you, I know how to make things viral. That’s my job.”

Florida PTA president Eileen Segal asked the board to pause the implementation of the standards and new tests, echoing a request from state school superintendents.

Another parent, Meredith Mears, a co-founder of Florida Parents Against Common Core said her kindergartner was struggling with new Common Core math lessons.

“You are setting my children up to fail and have doubts about their capabilities,” she said.

Several times State Board of Education chairman Gary Chartrand asked the crowd to stop applauding speakers opposing the standards. So, they silently waved their hands to show support. One Common Core critic issued a direct threat to Gov. Rick Scott as he seeks reelection: if you don’t support us, we’re going to sit this election out.

Critics brought signs which equated the name change to putting lipstick on a pig. Audience members also accused the board of ignoring them.

Board member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey thanked the audience for their input. She thought state leaders could keep some of their ideas in mind moving forward, such as focusing on teacher morale and student stress.

“We heard you and we really appreciate you contributing to the decision-making process,” Lipsey said.

Schools are scheduled to use the standards in every grade when classes begin this fall. Kindergarten through second grade classrooms are using the standards now. A new test is scheduled to replace the FCAT in early 2015.

Comments

  • Marvin

    Here’s my opinion on the problem. Many students in Florida come without the basics to begin with. We have a lot of transcients that come from other countries, legal or illegal, and when you throw them into something like deep common core water and expect them to swim, a percentage of them will drown. Like all children they have to crawl before they can walk. We’re expecting some of these children to race after they crawl. I do think we need to raise the rigor and stop spoon feeding those who continue to not grow academically no matter how much help they are given, but to hold all students accountable for the same requirements is unrealistic at best.

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