Florida lawmakers are considering allowing the state education commissioner to partially delay implementation of new, tougher education standards and testing.
Senate education committee chairman John Legg, R-Port Richey, says Education Commissioner Tony Bennett has asked for 120 days to survey Florida school districts as to whether they can meet the fall 2014 deadline for new education standards.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge,” Legg says. “It’s going to be difficult to meet that deadline unless we start looking at significant investments or perhaps even delaying that deadline or looking at an alternative course.
“You don’t want to have students moving around the schools getting ready to do assessments, figuring that out mid-year. You want to have that plan in place before school starts, before you start doing the testing schedule. I’m real concerned that we’re not going to be able to implement it correctly.”
The standards, known as Common Core, have been adopted by 45 states. The standards put more emphasis on analysis and critical thinking, experts say, asking students to prove not only what they know, but how they know it.
With Common Core will also come new standardized assessments. Florida is leading a coalition of states developing a computerized test known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
Legg says lawmakers may grant Bennett the ability to delay implementation in upper grades. That means Florida could phase in the new testing in just kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade at first. Instead of requiring high school students to take the PARCC exam, Legg says lawmakers instead might allow the use of ACT or SAT college aptitude scores or another existing test.
“I told him that I’m a willing partner in giving him the flexibility in order to simplify, diversify and delay if he needs to,” says Legg, who supports Common Core standards. “I think the ability to delay portions of it. Those are some of the tools that he may need in order to make this work correctly.
Florida school districts say they face a challenge to prepare their schools for computerized testing and the Internet and technological demands of digital instruction.
Orange County schools, for instance, say they still don’t know what Florida law requires and how much it might cost to outfit their schools.
Legg says lawmakers recognize that the deadline, particularly since they are now debating the final full-year state budget before the Common Core deadline.
“I think the needs, especially the infrastructure needs and the technology needs are going to be a significant challenge for us to meet that,”
Florida lawmakers have received big-ticket budget requests from the Florida Department of Education and Gov. Rick Scott.
The state agency has asked for $441.8 million to upgrade school technology and equipment. Scott, however, has sought $480 million to offer teachers a $2,500 pay raise. Scott’s budget includes $100 million for new technology.
“There’s just not enough of a pie to go around to do both at that level,” Legg says.