In Florida Schools It's Common Core by Another Name

In Florida Schools It's Common Core by Another Name

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Despite political maneuvering and heated public debate around Common Core, Florida schools are well on their way to fully adopting the new education standards. Just don’t call them Common Core.

After more than two years of discussion the state is now moving forward with its own version of the CCSS, which were designed to revamp the way schools instruct and assess students. The Florida Standards differ in several ways, including with additions like cursive writing and calculus. Officials are also looking to add English-language-proficiency standards and assessments for English-language learners.

“We tinkered with the Florida standards but it's really Common Core—it’s now the policy of the state,” said David Lawrence Jr. with The Children’s Movement of Florida and Education and Community Leadership Scholar at the University of Miami’s School of Education and Human Development.

When Florida joined 45 other states in adopting the CCSS in 2010, it set off a debate over whether the move meant relinquishing state control over schools, whether Florida can support it’s teachers through the process of implementation and how Florida would assess students under the new standards. All this played out as the standards were being phased in.

Jennifer Hartshorne, deputy communications director, Florida Department of Education, says that it was a matter of making the standards stronger.

“In 2010, the state board of education adopted the English Language Arts and math standards that some refer to as CCSS. Florida took a look at those this past year and strengthened them [in response to] a large amount of public interest.”

Can we still call it Common Core?

According to Dr. Karen Effrem, executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, “Florida standards are 99.1 percent Common Core. It was completely a name change, or as we have dubbed it, ‘lipstick on a pig.’”

She says it makes no difference what you call it as many of the tweaks are not actually going to show up on the tests and that furthermore they don’t change the substantive problems with the standards, those that she and others fought from the start.

Confusion over the standards may be why in May Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an education bill that will remove more than 30 references to Common Core from state law.

And what about implementation status?

According to Ephrem, CCSS is now being implemented in K-2 grades throughout Florida and will be implemented in the rest of the grades starting next year.

Hartshorne, of the Florida Department of Education, says that the new standards are already in use in most districts, in part because the initial 2010 adoption stipulated that CCSS be implemented fully by 2014-2015.

“Most are teaching something from what was adapted in 2010,” she said.

How does Florida compare to other states?

“For all the controversy and all the debate, the CCSS are still the standards of record in the vast majority of states. That’s powerful. We have this common expectation that all students will be exposed to learning that will prepare them for college and the workplace,” said Daria Hall, director of K-12 Policy Development for The Education Trust.

According to Dr. Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, The Florida state standards have changed substantially, and many states may follow in that direction.

“I think you will see something where 30 something states will end up with CCSS and some will end up with their version, with tweaks based on that state’s needs,” he said.

Carrie Heath Phillips, program director for the Common Core State Standards at Council of Chief State School Officers which is helping to coordinate the CCSS, maintains that adjusting the standards serves to customize them to the needs of the individual state.

“Since the Common Core State Standards were developed in 2010, states have had the flexibility to add state-determined material to the standards. Many states have taken advantage of this by, for example, incorporating content from the state’s previous standards or content required by state legislation into the Standards or adding state-specific contextual information,” she said.

Issues on the horizon

According to Hall of the The Education Trust, the real issue is with those states that choose not to adopt CCSS at all. Other concerns are teacher development and testing.

“Some educators are still left recreating the wheel because they haven’t been provided with the trainings and resources.”

You can read about the experience of Lorys Rodriguez, a South Miami K-8 teacher who has managed to bridge the CCSS information and teacher development gap in order to ensure that her students succeed.