John O'Connor is the Tampa-based education reporter for StateImpact Florida. John previously covered politics, the budget and taxes for The (Columbia, S.C) State. He is a graduate of Allegheny College and the University of Maryland.
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.
As school districts purchase textbooks and other materials for new standards, two studies find much of what is on the market is a poor match for Common Core.
Brevard County schools are considering 30 new middle and high school textbooks for the nationally crafted math and language arts standards known as Common Core,Florida Today reports.
The standards are currently used in kindergarten through second grade, and are scheduled to be used in every Florida grade when classes start this fall.
Like Brevard County, school districts across the state that have yet to do so will soon need to make big curriculum decisions. But there’s a problem — researchers are finding many textbooks and classroom materials aren’t a perfect match for Common Core.
So you’re a school district leader with a limited budget but looming deadlines to upgrade classroom technology — what’s going to provide the best bang for the buck? A researcher at North Carolina State University recommends avoiding “canned content,” such as educational software and big-ticket interactive whiteboards. Instead, invest in wireless while deciding whether to make short- or long-term tech investments. And try more flexible tools, such as netbooks coupled with document cameras.
For schools looking to spend limited dollars allocated for technology in smart and efficient ways, lessons learned over years of making tough decisions can be helpful. Mark Samberg, who has worked in education for 13 years, first as a K-12 tech director and later as a district level technology director, has some sage advice.
The Florida Department of Education released individual teacher evaluation scores Monday, after the Florida Times-Union won its lawsuit seeking the data. Union leaders said the scores are “flawed” and “meaningless” because most teachers are rated based on subjects or students they don’t teach.
Parents can now see exactly how Florida’s controversial value-added model, or VAM system, gauges the state’s teachers.
The Florida Department of Education’s value-added model looks to quantify how much, or little, individual teachers contribute to students’ progress over the school year.
Local school systems use the scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation, although districts have some latitude on how the data is incorporated. At least two counties locally plan to change their use of the measurements, the validity of which is disputed by many teachers.
The scores, publicly available for the first time, reflect pockets of excellence and low performance.
“Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get CCSS implementation right. In fact, two-thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel writes in the Feb. 19 letter. “Consequently, NEA members have a right to feel frustrated, upset, and angry about the poor commitment to implementing the standards correctly.”
In all, the letter is more evidence of a phenomenon my colleague Andrew Ujifusa of State EdWatch fame and I wrote about in this week’s edition of Education Week: Unions are in a tricky situation on the common core. They’ve been among its greatest champions, and are now faced with rank-and-file members’ gripes as it’s implemented, especially in New York.
The NEA won’t oppose the standards, Van Roekel writes in the letter. “[S]cuttling these standards will simply return us to the failed days of No Child Left Behind, where rote memorization and bubble tests drove teaching and learning,” he says.
Florida is one of 45 states which have fully adopted the standards. Common Core outlines what students should know at the end of each grade. The standards are expected to be more difficult in order to better prepare students for college or a job.
A proposal to exempt firefighters and police officers from changes to the state pension system may not have won over reluctant lawmakers, the News Service of Florida reports. The state’s largest teacher’s union is also opposing the bill, which seeks to close the traditional pension to new hires.
“I’ve got more convincing to do,” said Senate Community Affairs Chairman Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who sponsored the bill.
This year’s Senate proposal would close the Florida Retirement System’s traditional pension plan to new employees afterJuly 1, 2015, though those employees already in the system would remain. New hires would be required to choose between a 401(k)-style investment plan and a “cash balance” plan, which in some ways acts like a 401(k) but guarantees a minimum benefit.
Employees would have de facto accounts set up and would be guaranteed a return of at least 2 percent a year on the money in their accounts. If the plan’s investments made more than 2 percent, then three-quarters of the extra money would go to employees.
Tuesday, she sought support for the Ethan Rediske Act, or HB 895, which would exempt students from state standardized tests if parents, special educators and school superintendents could prove a medical need to skip the test.
“This incident caused anguish to my family,” Rediske told the board, “and shows a stunning lack of compassion and even common sense on the part of the Department of Education.
“You may ask yourselves: ‘If this is such a problem why isn’t there more public outcry from the parents of disabled children?’ I am here to tell you why. Parents of severely disabled children are exhausted. We spend our lives keeping these children alive.”
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 study has another clear result: High school grades matter — a lot. For both those students who submitted their test results to their colleges and those who did not, high school grades were the best predictor of a student’s success in college. And kids who had low or modest test scores, but good high school grades, did better in college than those with good scores but modest grades.
Hiss says it’s probably not so surprising that a pattern of hard work, discipline and curiosity in high school shows up “as highly predictive, in contrast to what they do in three or four hours on a particular Saturday morning in a testing room.”
Some are calling this study a potential game-changer that may prompt schools to evaluate whether there is value in requiring standardized tests.