Common Core: a dirty word for Florida Education Commissioner as board rejects components of the standards

10/15/13 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Common Core, PARCC, Rick Scott, Florida Board of Education, Pam Stewart, Kathleen Shanahan, Gary Chartrand


Florida Board of Education chair Gary Chartrand and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart discuss whether or not to reject components of Common Core.

photo by Janelle Irwin

The Florida Board of Education has rejected some components of Common Core State Testing Standards. But education officials said during a meeting at the Tampa Airport Marriott Tuesday, that doesn’t mean the new standards are going away.

The unanimous vote means that Florida will not use appendices, sample performance tasks, student writing samples or designed high school math courses associated with the Common Core State Standards.

“The State Board of Education adopted the standards in English, language arts and mathematics and that was all the state board adopted. They did not adopt any of the ancillary materials that accompany the standards.”

That’s Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. During discussions about how to inform the public about new state standards, she avoided using the term Common Core. Board members, several times, had to verify that that’s what she was talking about. The educational standards have been adopted in 48 states, but have gotten push-back from some Tea Party groups who worry the standards represent more government overreach.

“I would say that it has a great deal to do with the fact that people think of it as curriculum and it is not curriculum, it is standards. Curriculum is a local decision. I think it is our responsibility to ensure that there is not national overreach through such things as a national curriculum or even a state curriculum. Those are local decisions that are made in the classroom level, the school level and the district level and not at the state or national level and it’s important for us to make that clarification.”

There are also opponents on the left who worry Common Core State Standards will continue the state’s reliance on high stakes testing. Supporters of Common Core State Standards were angered last month when Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order removing Florida as the fiduciary head of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. It was seen as a possible step away from Common Core. Gary Chartrand is the chair of the state Board of Education.

“But we did not withdraw from PARCC. We’re still on the governing board of PARCC, but we’re also going to move forward with an open process to see what other assessment opportunities are out there for us and what our options are and we made that pretty clear to PARCC as well.”

Vice chair John Padget said he hears from parents all the time who think the board is abandoning Common Core State Standards which are considered more rigorous than previous models.

“And I have to remind them, no we’re not backing off. We adopted something in 2010 and we’re opening the door to see if it can be improved upon.”

To make sure stakeholders are educated on what is happening in the state’s public schools, the Florida Board of Education along with Commissioner Stewart will host three public forums this week beginning Tuesday night at the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry campus.

“This is our third year of implementing the Common Core State Standards, so it’s the opportunity for individuals to come forward and provide input. I’m thinking particularly teachers who have implemented the standards who can speak to them directly as well as parents whose children have experienced this.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, board members also approved some rule changes that will provide a safety net to schools for an extra year that guarantees they can’t lose more than one letter grade as a result of test scores. Board chair Chartrand said the current testing standards need to be changed.

Their vote extended the safety net through the end of this year to accommodate high schools whose test results come in later than elementary and middle schools. It also added the safety net to next school year as Common Core becomes fully implemented but doesn’t have new testing measures to accompany it. Kathleen Shanahan voted against both rule changes arguing the one-letter grade change cap will be in effect four years if the board approves an extension.

“What are you going to crosswalk to? The A that it should have been or the B that it is or the A that it is and the B that it should have been?”

Board members also approved a new rule that allows honorably discharged veterans to receive high school diplomas. The public meetings to discuss the Common Core State Standards will Tuesday night at Hillsborough Community College on Dale Mabry, Wednesday in Broward County and Thursday in Tallahassee. All meetings will be from 5-8 p.m.. They’ll be webcast on The Florida Channel.

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