Putting Education Reform To The Test

Call It Operation Core: Florida Planning “Full Frontal Assault” On New Standards

Gina Jordan/StateImpact Florida

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is pledging a "full frontal assault" to prepare students, teachers and schools for new standards by fall 2014.

Three words reporters didn’t expect to hear during a conference call with state education leaders last week: Full frontal assault.

The words were uttered several times in the midst of a 45 minute call about results from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

In this case, the speakers were talking about Common Core State Standards – a new way of teaching that dives deeply into fewer subjects. The goal is to get more students college and career ready.

The Florida Department of Education is smarting from “unacceptable” FCAT results — they were flat — and they’re looking ahead to what Common Core will mean for student learning.

“I do believe that Common Core will be the hinge point where we get our focus back,” Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said, “especially in problem solving and critical analysis at the lower levels.”

The state is transitioning to the new standards by the start of the 2014 school year. The FCAT (mostly) will be phased out and students are scheduled to begin taking a new exam tied to the standards in the spring of 2015.

Bennett thinks Common Core will be the “catalyst” to improve student learning.

“What we are working on right now is a full-scale implementation plan to make sure Florida’s teachers are prepared to deliver that instruction,” Bennett said, “and also that we have all of the frameworks in place for Florida’s children to master that instruction.”

In spite of FCAT scores that are mostly stagnant, Bennett says the state is well-positioned to implement the new standards.

“2013-14 is going to be a full frontal assault on making sure that Florida’s teachers have what they need to teach Common Core and Florida’s children have what they need to master Common Core,” Bennett said. “That’s the plan.”

K-12 Chancellor Pam Stewart echoed that sentiment as she talked about the training underway for all teachers.

“Common Core Standards are only implemented this year in kindergarten and first grade,” Stewart said. “As the commissioner said, next year – full frontal assault on Common Core in all grades.”

Districts are doing their own thing for now, developing their own lessons to make sure students meet the standards since few Common Core-ready textbooks are available.

This summer, teachers and administrators will get some help from DOE at two-day training workshops around the state.


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