Putting Education Reform To The Test

Why Common Core Could Mean Less Tinkering With Florida Schools

Education has been a tinker toy for Florida leaders, Scott Maxwell writes.

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Education has been a tinker toy for Florida leaders, Scott Maxwell writes.

Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell made an interesting argument over the weekend in favor of Florida’s new Common Core English, literacy and math standards: it will hinder state leaders when they try to tinker with schools.

Maxwell wrote his column as an open letter. He said he no longer trusts Florida leaders about education after they have cut essential subjects and punished schools for low performance — except when too many low grades would look bad for the state grading system.

Florida is one of 45 states to develop and fully adopt Common Core. The standards may not be the solution, Maxwell wrote, but it might reduce the tinkering.

“Frankly, I trust other states more than I trust you,” Maxwell wrote:

I want decisions about education made by people who teach for a living — not those who politic for one.

I am sick of politicians using my kids to pander to political causes, ideological groups and testing companies that write campaign checks.

I’m sick of legislators who home-school or privately educate their kids blustering about the sanctions they want to impose on other people’s children.

It never seems to dawn on them that private schools are appealing, in part, because they aren’t subjected to the same convoluted, top-down micromanagement imposed on public schools.

Here’s the thing: Florida, we’ve had about a decade’s worth of your “reform” — and it’s a failure.

Maxwell’s column goes right to one of the major criticisms of Common Core — that the standards will restrict local control over education by proscribing what students should know at the end of each grade. Others argue Common Core is just the latest way reformers are tinkering with state schools.

One argument for the standards is that it will be easier to compare the school performance of Common Core states against each other. Likewise, the states will hold each other accountable so individual states can’t lower passing scores, or make other changes which make it look like their schools are performing better than they are.

With Florida’s record, Maxwell argues, that might be a good thing.


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