Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Gina Jordan

  • Email: gjordan@miamiherald.com

Common Standards, New Lessons May “Weed Out” Some Teachers

The transition to Common Core may be a challenge that some teachers choose not to take.

paul gooddy/freedigitalphotos.net

The transition to Common Core may be a challenge that some teachers choose not to take.

Before she retires, Shara Holt is getting teachers around the state ready to use Common Core standards. Holt is a literacy coach in St. Johns County who’s spent 41 years as an educator.

Florida is one of 45 states transitioning to Common Core State Standards right now.

It’s a new way of teaching that focuses heavily on fewer subjects, sets benchmarks for students at each grade level, and forces students to explain their answers.

“Gone are the days when a teacher can go to the filing cabinet and pull out a lesson plan from five years ago, blow the dust off and use the same lesson plan,” said Holt. “Now we have to look at the needs of the students…instead of just teaching what’s there and (saying) ‘If they get it, fine – if they don’t get it, too bad.’”

It’s a change that Holt thinks could lead to an exodus from the classroom.

“I’ve seen teachers already who have left the system,” Holt said, “not only because of the change coming with Common Core but also with the teacher evaluation system.”

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Common Core Math Lessons Designed To Create A “Puzzler’s Disposition”

Training specialist Ilea Faircloth is teaching the teachers how to implement Common Core in their math classes.

Ilea Faircloth/StateImpact Florida

Training specialist Ilea Faircloth is teaching the teachers how to implement Common Core in their math classes.

“Boring.”  

“Wah wah wah.”

“Monotone.”

“Confusing.”

That’s how math teachers training in Common Core standards this week near Pensacola described their own childhood math lessons.

These teachers are learning how to make math an interactive, engaging experience for students under the new Common Core State Standards.

They were led by Ilea Faircloth, a staff training specialist for Bay County schools.

“With Common Core, if we are implementing the math practices with fidelity and to the intent of the mathematical Common Core writers, we are instilling in them the love of mathematics,” Faircloth said. “We are challenging them and pushing them. We’re not giving them answers – we’re making them think.”

And “It’s fun and it’s engaging, and it’s not boring,” Faircloth said.

Teachers in this training session are learning techniques that Faircloth says will work for students of all ages.

Common Core will have kids thinking out loud, discussing solutions with each other, and explaining their answers.    Continue Reading

How Florida Administrators Are Preparing For Common Core

Panhandle Principal Linda Gooch is among thousands of educators being trained in Common Core Standards this summer.

www.santarosa.k12.fl.us

Panhandle Principal Linda Gooch is among thousands of educators being trained in Common Core Standards this summer.

Florida schools have one more academic year to fully get ready for Common Core State Standards.

This new way of teaching is designed to better prepare students for college and a career.

Thousands of teachers are getting help from the Florida Department of Education at training sessions this summer – studying a different way to guide student learning.

Principals and other school personnel are learning, too.

K-12 Deputy Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen says administrators need enough knowledge about the standards to recognize them in the classroom and lead teachers through the transition.

“It’s to help administrators recognize what a classroom where Common Core is being taught should look like and how to support teachers with resources and lesson study,” Tappen said this week during a training session near Pensacola. “So administrators have some skills but also some resources to help them.”

It’s a big change for long time educators like Bagdad Elementary School Principal Linda Gooch in Santa Rosa County. She’s worked in education more than three decades, seven of those years as an administrator.

She answered questions during a break from classes at the Department of Education’s Common Core Institute in Gulf Breeze.

Q: What are administrators learning at these summer institutes?

A: We are learning how to be the instructional leader that we need to be to make sure that our teachers are able to implement Common Core in the way that it should be.

We have to have a little bit of information about all of the different areas because it’s up to us to make sure that we are providing the professional development that our teachers need and encouraging our teachers to be leaders – to work with their grade levels and to work with other grade levels because we can’t do it all.  Continue Reading

Florida Teachers Report For Common Core Summer Camp

Teachers at the summer's first Common Core Institute are being trained in Biology, Algebra, Social Studies, and more.

Gina Jordan/StateImpact Florida

Teachers at the summer's first Common Core Institute are being trained in Biology, Algebra, Social Studies, and more.

“I say common, you say core! Common!”

“Core.”

“Common!”

“Core.”

Teachers working in small groups were corralled to attention by their K-2 math leader.

It’s the first day the Florida Department of Education’s 2013 Common Core State Standards Summer Institutes.

This two-day session – the first of seven offered around the state – began Tuesday at Gulf Breeze High School near Pensacola.

About 1,500 teachers and administrators filled dozens of classrooms to hear best practices for teaching with the new standards.

K-12 Deputy Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen was constantly on the move, ducking in and out of dozens of training sessions.

“Next year, we are doing blended course descriptions which means in all English language arts and math classrooms, they’ll be teaching the Common Core,” Tappen said.

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Governor Signs “Partial Fix” For Teacher Evaluations But Union Still Suing

From now on, Florida teachers will be evaluated on the performance of students they actually teach.

IITA Image Library/flickr

From now on, Florida teachers will be evaluated on the performance of students they actually teach.

Florida teachers will no longer be evaluated – and have their pay based on – the performance of students they don’t teach.

Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill passed by the Florida Legislature that should allay some of their concerns.

The law, SB 1664, says teachers must be judged only on the performance of students they’ve taught, but it’s less clear what will happen for teachers of subjects that don’t include standardized tests.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) is suing over the evaluation system but calls the new law “a partial fix.”

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Congressman Wants States To Be Able To Cut Ties With The Federal Department of Education

New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett is behind a proposal to keep education funding at the state levels and enable states to withdraw from Common Core.

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New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett is behind a proposal to keep education funding at the state levels and enable states to withdraw from Common Core.

A New Jersey Congressman has proposed a bill that would allow states to bypass the strings which come with federal money.

During a Common Core briefing at the Cato Institute this week, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) said he would introduce the LEARN Act – Local Education Authority Returns Now. The proposal would keep education funding at the state level instead of moving it through the federal government.

“It’s time to return our education policy back to local communities,” Garrett said. “It’s time to start putting actually the students first and not anyone else.”

The bill would also make it easier for states to rescind their support of Common Core State Standards.

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Summer Camps Teach STEM Skills To Kids In Foster Homes

We hope the students in Jacksonville build better robots than these at their camp this week.

Dan Coulter / Flickr

We hope the students in Jacksonville build better robots than these at their camp this week.

Hundreds of kids in foster care are working on science, technology, engineering and math — otherwise known as STEM – projects this summer.

The projects are part of the Florida Department of Children and Families Camps for Champions.

“Many foster children don’t have the same opportunities to travel and learn new activities like their peers do,” said football star Derrick Brooks, who helped launch the camps in St. Petersburg this week. “These camps give them those opportunities.”

At the kick-off camp, 30 kids learned STEM skills in St. Pete. Campers in Jacksonville are teaming up to build robots this week.

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Call It Operation Core: Florida Planning “Full Frontal Assault” On New Standards

Gina Jordan/StateImpact Florida

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is pledging a "full frontal assault" to prepare students, teachers and schools for new standards by fall 2014.

Three words reporters didn’t expect to hear during a conference call with state education leaders last week: Full frontal assault.

The words were uttered several times in the midst of a 45 minute call about results from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

In this case, the speakers were talking about Common Core State Standards – a new way of teaching that dives deeply into fewer subjects. The goal is to get more students college and career ready.

The Florida Department of Education is smarting from “unacceptable” FCAT results — they were flat — and they’re looking ahead to what Common Core will mean for student learning.

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Commissioner Bennett Sees Mixed Bag In Student Test Results

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Florida students showed greater improvement on end-of-course exams than FCAT 2.0 in results released today.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is responding like a disappointed dad to news that Florida students did a little bit better on their standardized tests this year, but not as well as he would have liked.

The Florida Department of Education released results in FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course (EOC) assessments today.

They show across-the-board improvement on EOC assessments, particularly in Biology 1 and Geometry.

In a press release, DOE said FCAT 2.0 Reading scores increased in grades 6, 8, 9 and 10. For FCAT 2.0 Mathematics, grade 4 showed improvement. In FCAT 2.0 Science, grade 5 showed improvement and grade 8 remained the same.

But the scores didn’t move enough to appease Bennett.

“The FCAT results are flat, and I find that personally unacceptable,” Bennett said. “I think we have to refocus our efforts on reading and making sure our students have the foundational skills necessary in mathematics.”

Bennett said the FCAT scores weren’t disastrous; they simply looked unimpressive compared to EOC assessment results that were very good.

The scores help determine overall school grades, which impact teacher salaries. Bennett expects a decline in school grades this year because of tougher standards.   Continue Reading

Report: Florida Universities Improve Grad Rates While Keeping Costs Down

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Florida gets high marks in a national report for keeping university costs down while improving graduation rates.

A new report finds Florida’s public university system is a good model in affordability for the rest of the country.

Florida Rising: An Assessment of Public Universities in the Sunshine State analyzed cost, administrative and academic spending, curriculum, and graduation rates at Florida’s 11 universities.

(Florida Polytechnic University – the 12th in the system – doesn’t begin classes until August 2014.)

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and The James Madison Institute are the groups behind the assessment.

“Overall, Florida public universities are on a prudent and successful course during these difficult economic times,” researchers wrote. “Significant challenges and difficult decisions over priorities remain. It is clear, however, that Florida has high potential to be a model for other states.”

While state funding for the system fell from $2.6 billion to $1.7 billion between 2007 and 2012, the report finds a six-year graduation rate of 66 percent – putting Florida in the top ten nationally.

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