Before she retires, Shara Holt is getting teachers around the state ready to use Common Core standards. Holt is a literacy coach in St. Johns County who’s spent 41 years as an educator.
Florida is one of 45 states transitioning to Common Core State Standards right now.
It’s a new way of teaching that focuses heavily on fewer subjects, sets benchmarks for students at each grade level, and forces students to explain their answers.
“Gone are the days when a teacher can go to the filing cabinet and pull out a lesson plan from five years ago, blow the dust off and use the same lesson plan,” said Holt. “Now we have to look at the needs of the students…instead of just teaching what’s there and (saying) ‘If they get it, fine – if they don’t get it, too bad.'”
It’s a change that Holt thinks could lead to an exodus from the classroom.
“I’ve seen teachers already who have left the system,” Holt said, “not only because of the change coming with Common Core but also with the teacher evaluation system.”
Some districts are transitioning to Common Core faster than others, but they all have to be ready for full implementation in the 2014-15 school year.
“It’s quite challenging,” 12th grade English teacher Cheryl Henley said. “Where our students are now and where they need to be – there’s such a gap.”
Henley works at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee. Like Holt, she’s training teachers in Common Core and how to create a new method of instruction.
“I get to create, and I get to design,” Henley said. “The standards really do give the teacher the opportunity to develop and really look at the student” to assess individual needs.
Henley has seen some teachers take early retirement – partly because lessons from the filing cabinet won’t work for Common Core. She thinks others will be “weeded out” because they got into teaching for the wrong reasons.
“I also think we’re going to lose the younger population,” Henley said. “People who start into teaching in that first three years (of Common Core implementation), I think we’re going to see a big turnover.”
Mary Jane Tappen, K-12 Deputy Chancellor with the Florida Department of Education, knows some educators may not be able to handle the change.
“People have different levels of tolerance,” Tappen said. “There may be some folks who just aren’t ready for this, and they may leave the system. But I don’t expect that it’ll be because of the new standards. I think it’ll be a reaction to having to do things differently.”
For Henley, a 20-year teaching veteran, it’s about returning to basics and focusing on the needs of the kids.
“It’s all about the student,” Henley said. “It’s not about us.”