Senate President Don Gaetz is a former school board member and district superintendent, so he knows a thing or two about big changes in school policy.
Florida lawmakers, Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and outside experts have all raised questions about whether Florida and other states will meet a fall 2014 deadline for new education standards known as Common Core. With the new standards comes a new test to replace most of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Gaetz says Florida is behind schedule, but believes Bennett can ensure schools are ready on time.
“I think we lost a year because the Department of Education sort of flailed around and didn’t implement the standards,” Gaetz says. “I think we could still make up the time.
“Tony Bennett is the new commissioner of education in the state of Florida. He is someone who has proven that he can institutionalize reform and make it work actually in the classroom. So my hope is that we’ll be able to implement the new standards.”
Common Core standards will allow better comparison between students in different states and internationally. The standards focus on deeper knowledge of fewer topics. Teachers are expected to not only ask students what they know, but require students to prove how they know it.
Gaetz says Florida should not give in to resistance to the new standards over fears fewer students will meet tougher requirements.
“Anytime that you implement new standards there are going to be some folks who are going to complain because they don’t make the cut and they can’t make the cut,” he says. “That’s the downside of measurement – that not everybody gets a blue ribbon.
“I believe we ought to make sure our schools and our districts are ready. I think under Tony Bennett’s direction that can happen. But it is true that we’ve lost a year and that’s unfortunate.”
We’ll have more about Gaetz later, and listen to our interview with the Senate president on Florida public radio stations next week.