The cost and technology are the most obvious problems facing Florida schools as they try to implement new, tougher education standards and computerized testing.
But Education Commissioner Tony Bennett told the State Board of Education politics are about to become an issue as well.
The standards, known as Common Core State Standards, have been fully adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Educators say the new standards ask what students know and require them to prove how they know it. Critics say the standards are no better than what many states have already adopted.
Common Core will also mean a new standardized test in Florida, PARCC, or the Partnership for Readiness for College and Careers. Those math and English tests must be approved by a coalition of 22 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Bennett said Monday that some states are going to face sticker shock when they realize the cost of the new testing. Others, he said, might want to set lower passing scores than Florida.
It’s one reason he said he’s working on a “Plan B” in case Florida schools or the new tests aren’t ready by the fall of 2014 deadline.
“There are states sitting around the table today in PARCC that spend significantly less than Florida and a couple of other states on assessment,” Bennett said, declining to name states. “We’re going to get to a point where some states are going to have to take a look and say ‘Will our Legislature appropriate this amount of money to assess our children?’
“There will be states sitting around the table today that will have a very difficult time adopting a cut score that is consistent with the cut score we believe is appropriate for Florida’s children.”
Bennett said he plans to report back to the board next month. That report will include a date for the agency to make a go/no-go decision on Common Core and PARCC for the 2014-2015 school year. It will also include “Plan B” alternatives.
“I don’t want this to imply…to mean PARCC won’t happen,” Bennett said. “But I do believe it’s good management to consider what we’re going to do around a Plan B if PARCC gets delayed, or if for some reason PARCC doesn’t come to fruition.”
Florida is also the fiscal agent for PARCC, managing the $186 million federal grant funding the test’s development.