Few would dispute that the hottest topic in Florida’s education system, just as much in the United States, is the new initiative to implement Common Core Standards (CCS). So as the Florida legislative session began these past couple of weeks, this issue will be on the minds of many of our state elected officials. Back in February, the Florida State Board of Education approved changes to the Common Core Standards. However, some felt that these changes were not major. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the changes included 13 clarifications in English language arts, including a cursive writing requirement for students in second to fifth grades. So, what are the Florida Common Core Standards?
Basics of the Common Core Standards
According to the Florida Education Association, the legislature chose to fully adopt the Common Core State Standards in July 2010. These standards affect the areas of English language arts and mathematics and are slated to be implemented within the 2013-14 school year. The stated purpose of these standards is to ensure that high school students graduate with two or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.
The Impact on Teachers.
It should be noted that teachers are participants in this discussion and their input was vital to passing standards. Thereby, they are integral to its success. Classroom educators can help by providing goals and benchmarks that contribute to students acquiring skills and knowledge by the end of each year. Professional development programs should exist to better prepare teachers. Teacher advocate organizations such as NEA, AFT, FEA as well as the Florida PTA support the Common Core State Standards. This is because the Common Core is a set of expectations, not a curriculum. Indeed, Florida and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been working under a grant cooperatively as a partner to bring much of this about.
The Common Core Standards is not a Federal Takeover of Education
State residents have routinely stated their opposition to a “cookie cutter” education where one size fits all. Educational needs by state often reflect local dynamics. Thus, it should be affirmed that these standards do not reflect a federal takeover of local educational boards. The standards were initiated in 2009 through a partnership between the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, not the federal government. While U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan encourages states to adopt common standards, the Common Core is not a mandate.
What are some anticipated short-term and long-term effects of the Common Core?
The expectation exists that the FCAT be replaced by another test that is more aligned with the Common Core. This should be taking place for the first time next school year. Furthermore, skills related to media and technology will be incorporated. Fundamentally, the ultimate aspiration is that these standards would led to a better prepared Florida high school student to face today and tomorrow’s workforce.