By Tyler Banks
These are polarizing times and, although there is plenty of anger and outrage to go
around, few issues cause as much frustration as public education: especially standardized testing.The latest iteration of this, the Common Core, is reviled on both sides of the aisle.
The Common Core is a set of guidelines that determines what public school students are
supposed to learn by the end of each grade level. The standards were part of President Obama’s effort to raise the bar on U.S. education, as the focus changed from George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind mandate — which introduced school grading formulas tied to student test scores – to President Obama’s Race to the Top grants which incentivized high achieving school districts.
In Florida, schools began implementing Common Core and phasing out the Florida
Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). But by 2014, there was so much backlash from
parents, teacher unions, republicans and democrats alike, that then-Governor Rick Scott led the charge to do away with the standards.
“After an extensive listening tour, an education summit, and visiting with students,
teachers, and administrators and parents across the state, I’m proud to …. [stand] with Florida teachers, parents and students to leave the Common Core based PARCC testing system Governor Scott said in a public statement, signing a bill to switch from the Common Core to the Florida State Standards.
Hence, Florida does not use the Common Core Standards, at least not officially.
Governor Scott, and the Florida Department of Education employed the Florida Standards and rolled out the Florida State Assessments (FSA). But the difference between the two sets of standards are superficial, at best. Which is why the frustration associated with the Common Core is so palpable. So much so, that Governor DeSantis vowed to eliminate the standards in his first days in office.
“One of the things we would constantly hear about on the campaign trail is frustration
from parents with Common Core and the testing,” DeSantis said. “So today, we are taking action through [an] executive order to ensure that Florida has the best academic standards in the nation and eliminating Common Core from our schools.”
But, will anything actually change?
“We really don’t employ common core,” said Ms. Helena Castro, activities director and
former social studies teacher, who has witnessed the evolution of state assessments in her nearly 30 year career with Miami-Dade County public Schools.
“There have been a plethora of machinations of how we assess students. Back in my day,
we had the HSCT, then the FCAT, and now the FSA. Unless the governor is doing something to change how students in this state are being assessed and really working on making a curriculum to fit that, not much will be changing for teachers and students in the state of Florida,” said Ms. Castro.
On January 31st , Governor DeSantis signed an executive order eliminating the Common
Core in Florida Schools.
“I think our standards will be much higher in many respects, but I think it will be
standards that are reflective of what folks are looking for,” said Florida governor Ron DeSantis, announcing his plan January 31st in Cape Coral. “It will be more geared toward knowledge than maybe just teaching to a test.”
Many parents and educators are cheering this decision, hoping that this will lead to less
testing and more autonomy for schools and their teachers.
“I am not a proponent or a fan of Common Core,” said Ms. Mezawi, who has taught at
MLEC for fifteen years. “The concept of Common Core was to have a common set of standards for students across the United States…. However, the way that it has been implemented restricted the freedoms and choices a teacher can make in a class.”
There is an argument to be made there. Students in South Florida are different. Not only
are there socio-economic stressors common in many urban districts, but Miami’s population is mostly foreign-born, leading to many other demographic, cultural and language challenges that are non-existent in other states.
Which is why many opponents of the Common Core have lobbied for more local control.
“Let the teachers have more power over how students are assessed so that we can come
together as a state and be able to achieve the most for our state,” said Ms. Chavis, an MDCPS teacher for over 25 years.
In the governor’s plan, he said that he would require the Education Commissioner,
Richard Corcoran to: Find ways to increase the quality of instructional curriculum in Florida, suggest innovative ways to streamline testing in schools and make sure the testing is measuring success, and, identify ways to make civic education a priority in Florida. In other words, Governor DeSantis wants to serve Florida’s unique population while also preparing students for life after high school.
“They [the Governor’s administration] want to play with the big boys, but they don’t
want play by other people’s rules,” said Ms. Chavis. So why don’t they make their own rules and let us teachers do our job,” said Ms. Chavis.
Source:: The Harbinger