Former Gov. Jeb Bush visited classrooms, observed students using their iPads, and took questions from a debate class at a high school in Hialeah, Fla. this week.
The tour of the Latin Builders Association Construction & Business Management Academy high school—which is the first charter opened with a business association—was part of National School Choice Week.
Bush wrapped up the tour in the debate class by answering questions from journalists so the students could see how a press conference works.
He talked testing and Common Core State Standards with StateImpact Florida’s Sammy Mack:
Q: Florida’s been moving away a bit from the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam—which was going to be the next thing for standardized testing around the Common Core. What do you make of that?
A: Well moved away completely, I would say. I don’t even think the PARCC test is going to be one of the tests that will compete for the services here in the state of Florida.
What we need to have are tests that measure whether students are meeting the standards. It shouldn’t be the end-all and be-all. If great teachers—like the ones that exist here—teach to the standards, then you don’t have to teach to the test. You teach to the standards, the test then is an accurate measurement of where we are.
And we should be measuring critical thinking skills. We shouldn’t be measuring things of rote memory. We need to measure: can students defend their solutions in a math equation? Can they compare a text of the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence and make a case, one or the other, why it’s more important?
That’s the kind of learning we have. Our tests should be accurate assessments of that skill because that’s the skill of the future.
Q: So if the test Florida uses is different than the tests the other Common Core states are using, what does that mean?
A: It means it’s probably a little more costly, I guess.
The assessment can be different between states. You’re still going to be able to measure where Florida’s doing compared to other states. And that’s part of the beauty of this. Particularly in math. I mean, my gosh, a math equation; the answer to it is the answer. It’s not like it’s going to be a Florida answer or a Mississippi answer. It’s an answer.
And then measuring where the best results are is what creates continuous improvement. That’s what we need. We need to raise the results and the best way to do that is to determine how the best teaching practices are. My guess is if people really want to see great teaching, they could come to this school and see the algebra results.
Q: There were a lot of hearings over the summer about the Common Core and a lot of people came out and spoke both for and against it. And the Department of Education has made tweaks recently to it—very small tweaks. What do you think the state of Common Core is in Florida right now?
A: I think it’s modified to make it Floridian. The safe guards that are in place will be validated by law, I believe. … Where Data’s not going to be taken in the middle of the night somewhere to be used in some nefarious way. Where federal involvement is limited as it always has been.
So the validation of those protections, combined with these higher standards, implemented faithfully is gonna yield rising student achievement.
All of this is about the one thing that really matters. And that’s that children finish high school career- or college-ready. And today in Florida, about a quarter of our kids are truly college- or career-ready.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on remediation in community colleges. A lot of kids’ hopes are dashed because they think they have something of value, which is a piece of paper that says, “I’ve graduated.” But they can’t use it for getting a job or going on to pursue a higher education degree. And if we accept that, as that’s okay, and people that aspire to create higher standards and better results because of it is bad? My gosh, we’ve turned the whole world upside-down. This is Alice-in-Wonderland logic.
The aspiration oughta be: every child should be college- or career-ready. And we should benchmark ourselves to the best in the world. The good faith effort of Common Core State Standards and now these Florida standards is the right path to be on.