Table 1 was not going to play along.
The organizers of Gov. Rick Scott’s education summit had broken the three-dozen attendees into groups and asked them to write “vision statements” about the Common Core State Standards. The groups would pick and choose their favorite statements
But Table 1 – where two superintendents, the president of the PTA, the head of the Florida School Boards Association, a union leader and state Sen. Bill Montford were seated – thought the exercise was busy work.
It had been three years since Florida adopted Common Core State Standards, which outline what students should know in math and English language arts at the end of each grade. Florida is one of 45 states that have fully adopted the new standards.
In the meantime, Indiana had put implementation of the standards on hold, and other states had second thoughts about the standards. In Florida, too, critics have complained that the standards reduced local control over education and would not improve schools.
But Table 1 was unmoved. Despite complaints from those on the political right and left, the standards were a done deal.
Why were they wasting their time, Table 1 asked?
“I’d rather spend time on other issues,” said Bay County school superintendent Bill Husfelt. “This has already been decided.”
“I think this job is about addressing the naysayers and placating to them,” Husfelt said of the vision statement exercise. “I believe that’s what we’re sitting here doing right now.”
Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho agreed. The task reduced the amount of time left to discuss other important matters, such as changes to the state’s formula for grading schools or what standardized test should replace the FCAT. Carvalho was cooking up his own plan for rewriting the school grading formula.
The standards are acceptable to everyone but members of the “radicalized” right and left, he said.
“Anytime those people agree on anything,” he said, “the rest of us, the common sense people, should stay away.”
In the end, Table 1 agreed on a simple statement that accepted the standards and dismissed the controversy surrounding them: “The current standards are appropriate and acceptable.”
Across the room, Common Core critic Laura Zorc said the morning session on the standards went about as well as she expected.
“They’re not even willing to listen to problems that we as parents see with the standards,” said Zorc, who felt outmanned at the summit. “We have two wolves and a lamb and they’ve already decided what’s for dinner.”
But Zorc said she would bring up her concerns with the lawmakers attending the summit.
“Parents are not going to go away just because we have a panel of 35 members here today that say that we’ve already made the decision,” she said, “because the decision is still going to be left up to the parents once we have the opportunity to make it to the polls coming up this next election.”