Putting Education Reform To The Test

Five Questions For Florida Teacher’s Union President About Common Core

NEA Public Relations/flickr

FEA President Andy Ford likes the freedom Common Core gives teachers, but he's concerned about too much testing.

Florida is working toward full implementation of Common Core State Standards by the 2014-15 school year.

The standards set benchmarks for each grade level. And instead of learning a little bit about a lot of things, students will be expected to absorb a lot of information about fewer subjects.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett says Florida’s transition to Common Core is on schedule.

The Florida Department of Education even has an interactive readiness gauge online that measures each district’s progress toward meeting Common Core deadlines.

But Florida Education Association President Andy Ford calls the transition shaky. We sat down with him to talk about Common Core.

Q: Where do you think the state is right now in the transition to Common Core?

A: There hasn’t been a sufficient amount of training that’s been done to make sure that teachers understand what the new standards are and how to go about implementing them.

The assessments aren’t online yet in order to be able to have all the proof that we need.

The tests should be developed well in advance so they can be field tested and we can actually hit the ground running when we fully implement it.

Q: Do you think the state will be ready for Common Core assessments by 2014?

A: I don’t think we’re on track to be ready. I would hope we would be, but it doesn’t appear to be the case.

The state could derail the whole process if they don’t stop with the testing mania. If we continue down the path of what it appears they want to do, there’s going to be way too many tests.

Q: Do you think Common Core is an improvement over the current standards?

A: I think Common Core allows teachers to go to their classrooms and teach. It’s not scripted. It’s not going to be a pacing manual that you have to follow so that every 3rd grader needs to be doing the same thing every single day.

It’s going to give teachers a lot more freedom to say, ‘Here, this is the standard,’ and you go out and you make sure the kid can accomplish it. So, I think it’s a good thing if we don’t have too much testing.

Q: Supporters say Common Core is a way to compare U.S. students to kids around the world, but not everyone thinks that’s a good thing. What do you say to that?

A: I think having a curriculum that is deep and meaningful is important. Common Core requires students at each grade level to have less exposure to ideas. But the ones they do have exposure to – it’s more in-depth.

Kids are going to hopefully fully understand how to add fractions – and not just play with adding fractions this year and then next year you get a little more and then the year after that you get a little more.

They’re going to have time to actually understand it before they move on to the next subject.

Far too often with what we have currently, it’s a different objective every day and kids don’t necessarily get to fully comprehend the subject matter before you move on to the next.

Common Core changes that.

Q: What do you like about Common Core, and what do you not like about it?

A: I like the fact that Common Core allows teachers to teach.

It says that a first grader is going to be able to add a two digit number by a two digit number, and it doesn’t script how that happens. It gives the teacher the freedom to be able to do that.

The drawback is we’re going to end up requiring way too many tests at such a cost — both time and financial – that I don’t think it’ll be worth it. And it’ll have the same effect that we’ve been having with FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test).

We’ll have more with Andy Ford this week on the FCAT and whether teachers are getting a say in designing the new Common Core assessments.


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