Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Activists Not Satisfied With Proposed Common Core Changes

The Florida Department of Education wants to make some edits to the Common Core State Standards.

Mad African!: (Broken Sword) / Flickr

The Florida Department of Education wants to make some edits to the Common Core State Standards.

POST UPDATED: Monday the Florida Department of Education unveiled a list of suggested changes to the state’s K-12 language arts, literacy and math standards.

The changes add (or keep, really) calculus and cursive writing; they soften some elementary school requirements; and they clarify many objectives for teachers.

“With your input, we have strengthened our standards to ensure they are the best and highest standards,” education commissioner Pam Stewart said in a statement, “so that all Florida students graduate from high school prepared for success in college, career and in life.”

Gov. Rick Scott also praised the changes last week.

The standards are known as Common Core, and have been fully adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. The standards are being used in kindergarten through second grade now, and every grade is scheduled to use Common Core when classes start this fall.

But opponents — conservative and liberal — have criticized the standards. They pushed Scott to call for public hearings. The changes recommended Monday came from those public hearings and comments submitted online.

Common Core critics said the changes did not do enough.

Karen Effrem is with the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition and Education Liberty Watch. Effrem had yet to study the recommended changes, but said Stewart had already said the changes were “minor.”

“It’s really not going to change much,” she said. “From the way it sounds, I’m skeptical.”

Effrem’s group wants the state to repeal the standards. They’re concerned the standards don’t set high enough goals in math, limit local control over curriculum and are tied to federally-funded standardized tests.

Vero Beach mom Laura Zorc also helped launch a group opposing Common Core.

Zorc was disappointed that all of the changes were additions to the standards. She said that’s evidence the state can’t delete portions of Common Core — and therefore Florida doesn’t control its standards.

UPDATE: The Florida Department of Education said Tuesday they deleted a first grade math standard. But the proposed changes would move the standard — which deals with measuring length — from first grade to kindergarten.

Melissa Erickson, a Hillsborough County education activist and co-founder of the Alliance for Public Schools, was not happy with the changes either. She thought the state should leave the standards unchanged.

“We’re sending mixed messages about what we value and what’s important,” Erickson said.

Erickson was particularly worried about adding calculus to the standards.

Florida lawmakers recently eliminated algebra II from high school graduation requirements. But if calculus becomes a graduation requirement or ends up on state standardized tests, Erickson said it will make it more difficult for students to get into college.

UPDATE 2: The Florida Department of Education said Tuesday they have no plans to add trigonometry or calculus as high school graduation requirements.

But Kathleen Porter-Magee, a scholar at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, said many of the changes make sense. Massachusetts and other states have added to Common Core, including calculus. The Fordham Institute supports Common Core.

“It sounds like they’ve made some really smart changes, to be perfectly honest with you,” Porter-Magee said. “The addition of calculus makes a ton of sense. And that’s a great way to customize and really strengthen the math standards that are already there in the Common Core.”

The changes were part of flexibility built into the Common Core standards. States are free to add material to the standards — the writers recommend up to 15 percent — to customize the standards for local needs.

“It was always a policy that states could make these additions,” said Anne Hyslop, an education policy analyst with the New America Foundation. “These are things the state is perfectly able to add and should be able to add.”


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