Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Supporters And Opponents Race To Explain Common Core

Florida Parents Against Common Core protested a national meeting discussing the standards in Orlando last month.

Courtesy of Laura Zorc

Florida Parents Against Common Core protested a national meeting discussing the standards in Orlando last month.

When Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Tony Bennett met with school superintendents in April, Florida’s new education standards led the questions.

“Let’s start with Common Core,” said Martin County superintendent Laurie Gaylord. “We recently held a Common Core workshop for our school board and our community and we got picketed…So I guess I’m reaching out so that we can have the same message for all of us throughout the state — if there’s a marketing-type plan to be able to help us.”

Common Core is supposed to prepare students better for college or a career. Teachers will cover fewer topics, but spend more time on each one. And students will spend less time memorizing facts and more time learning to analyze and explain things.

Florida is one of 45 states that has adopted new math, English and literacy standards known as Common Core.

A poll last year by the nonprofit group Achieve found just one in five people had heard at least “some” things about Common Core.

Common Core supporters are trying to educate parents about what’s new in the standards and why they will improve schools.

Opponents are trying to halt the new standards before they are used in every state classroom when the school year begins in 2014. They say the standards are no improvement and worry the multi-state project will mean the loss of local control. Others worry Common Core will increase testing and cost more.

Both sides are in a public relations race to reach those who don’t know about the standards first.

“We Will Be Getting Out Talking Points”

Bennett understands bad public relations. Common Core’s unpopularity in Indiana is one reason why he lost a reelection campaign there last November.

He told the superintendents at the April meeting that his agency was working on it.

“We will be getting out talking points,” Bennett said. “We will be working with the governor on a full-blown communications plan.”

Three months later, Common Core critics said they are seeing that plan every time they meet with a state lawmaker or school board member.

“The first thing they do is pull out this information sheet from the Florida Department of Education,” said Laura Zorc, an organizer with Florida Parents Against Common Core.

Zorc wants the state to pause Common Core so parents can study the standards. She wants legal experts to review the standards and decide if they violate the state constitution.

She’s found elected officials are ready when asked to reconsider Common Core.

“The Florida Department of Education has taken our fact sheet and has attempted to dispute our concerns,” she said, citing a set of talking points called “Demystifying the Movement: Answers to Common Core Myths About the Common Core State Standards.”

“There Is A Level of Coordination”

Two nonprofits founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush are also helping with the public relations effort.

The Foundation for Florida’s Future  and the Foundation for Excellence in Education believes Common Core will mean a better education. Director Patricia Levesque said her group can help explain why.

Patricia Levesque said her group can help busy parents understand what Common Core will mean for their children.


Patricia Levesque said her group can help busy parents understand what Common Core will mean for their children.

“A lot of parents don’t know yet, really, what’s coming next year,” she said. “I’m a parent with a child in the public school system. We’re not getting enough information yet. So that’s why our foundation is trying to play a role in educating the public and educating parents.”

The Foundation for Excellence in Education is posting Common Core information on its website and sending out rapid-response email blasts debunking false claims about the standards.

One of those emails said a Polk County program scanning student irises had nothing to do with Common Core. The scans actually were part of a new bus security program.

At the time, only one person had falsely connected iris scanning with Common Core. It was a reader who left a comment on the Lakeland Ledger website.

The foundation’s quick-fire capabilities are helped by eyes and ears all over Florida. Allies monitor Common Core chatter and send Levesque every gripe and rumor.

“There is a level of coordination – loose coordination that’s going on,” Levesque said, “but there are many groups that really are dedicated to making sure that parents and the public understand Common Core State Standards.”

Meridith Mears, Debbie Higginbotham, Laura Zorc and Stacie Clark, who founded Florida Parents Against Common Core.

Courtesy of Laura Zorc

Meridith Mears, Debbie Higginbotham, Laura Zorc and Stacie Clark, who founded Florida Parents Against Common Core.

That includes ExxonMobil, which has aired television ads supporting the Common Core. The national PTA supports the standards. And the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is spending millions backing Common Core. That includes $151,068 to the Foundation for Excellence in Education for a statewide communications campaign — part of $1.7 million Gates has given the foundation since 2010.

Florida Parents Against Common Core leader Zorc said if Common Core supporters need to coordinate their message, it’s a sign her group is making progress.

“If they can’t talk to us without their cue cards, there’s a problem here,” Zorc said.

Florida’s Senate President expects a debate over the standards when lawmakers meet next year. Zorc said Florida Parents Against Common Core will have their arguments ready.


  • CharlotteGreenbarg

    Here is the source that proves they are data mining. Common Core is nothing more than 60′s new math redux with scanning added. There are corporations that will see millions in profits from the testing and technology requirements, and the entire package hasn’t been tested in any pilot program. Parents and families are entitled to see it and weigh in before it’s implemented.

    Arne Duncan looks forward to schools open 24/7 with all needs being met there. Brave New World. From the Charlie Rose Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6wRjxfkAU0.

    Charlotte Greenbarg
    Independent Voices for Better Education, Inc.
    According to the regulations for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),
    biometric data includes:

    record,” as used in the definition of “personally identifiable information,”
    means a record of one or more measurable biological or behavioral
    characteristics that can be used for automated recognition of an individual.
    Examples include fingerprints; retina and iris patterns;
    voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and
    handwriting.” (Emphasis added)[1]

    of Federal Regulations (CFR) 99.3 http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=11975031b82001bed902b3e73f33e604&rgn=div5&view=text&node=34:

    That data systems are federally required is documented here:

    From the Race to the Top regulations:[3]

    4: Invitational Priority–Expansion and Adaptation of Statewide Longitudinal Data

    The Secretary is particularly interested in applications in which the State plans to
    expand statewide longitudinal data systems to include or integrate
    data from special education programs, English language learner
    programs,1 early childhood programs, at-risk and dropout prevention programs,
    and school climate and culture programs, as well as information on student
    mobility, human resources (i.e., information on teachers, principals, and other
    staff), school finance, student health, postsecondary education,
    and other relevant areas, with the purpose of connecting and coordinating all
    parts of the system to allow important questions related to policy, practice, or
    overall effectiveness to be asked, answered, and incorporated into effective
    continuous improvement practices.

    From Florida’s Race to the Top application[4]:

    The Governor or his/her authorized representative assures that the State will comply with all of the accountability, transparency, and reporting requirements that apply to the Race to the Top program, including the following:

    For each year of the program, the State will submit a report to the Secretary, at
    such time and in such manner as the Secretary may require, that

    the State’s progress in reducing inequities in the distribution of highly qualified
    teachers, implementing a State longitudinal data system,

  • CharlotteGreenbarg

    Correction (typo) Should be 14/7, not 24/7.

  • Zizi Roberts

    Oh, dear. Is Common Core going to test and evaluate the students to distraction? Well, we already have that, don’t we? What are the technology requirements? Don’t tell me…are the students going to sit in front of computer screens that drill them on the basics? We already have that, too. It’s not working. Somebody tell me something about Common Core that is going to amaze me with it’s ingenuity and insightful recognition of the fact that every student is unique and that education begins at home.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »