Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said he would pause any penalties for students, teachers and schools while the state transitions to new Common Core-based math and language arts standards and a new online test.
Florida school leaders have asked for a three-year pause while teachers get comfortable with the new standards and students adjust to what is expected to be more challenging class work and state exams. States which are already using Common Core-tied exams saw the percentage of students passing the exams decline by about 30 points the first year the tests were used.
Florida schools are rated based, in part, on student test scores. Schools which earn a low grade can have their leadership and staff replaced or even be closed. Teachers will also be evaluated and paid based, in part, on those new test results.
“They’re unfair,” Crist said of why he supports pausing the penalties. “They don’t even know what test they’re going to use now. It’s a disaster. We need to change and we need help.”
Crist would also ask lawmakers to repeal the teacher evaluation and pay law. He vetoed a similar law his last year in office, but Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure the following year.
“I think we need to undo all of that to be fair to the people who teach our kids,” Crist said.
Crist is unlikely to find the Republican-controlled Legislature is open to pausing penalties during the Common Core transition.
The Florida Department of Education recommended suspending sanctions on schools during the 2014-2015 school year in order to establish a new baseline on test results. Schools will still be graded.
Lawmakers followed those recommendations and have argued against any pause or delay in implementing the standards.
Florida has chosen the American Institutes of Research to produce its next test. The test will be largely online and more grades will have to take the exam each year. AIR has released some sample questions for teachers and students to prepare.