In Florida, changes are in motion to Common Core as state education officials released 98 proposed changes to the Common Core State Standards and christened them the Florida Standards with the hope of incorporating public input and assuaging criticism. Additions and minor tweaks to the national benchmarks, which have been adopted in more than 45 states and outline what students should know at each grade level, are represented in the suggestions.
Some of the recommendations by the state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart include: adding 52 new calculus standards, requiring students to master cursive writing, a skill not included in the original Common Core standards, and introducing money concepts in first grade instead of second. The proposed changes would strengthen the benchmarks and make them unique to Florida, according to Stewart.
"With your input, we have strengthened our standards to ensure they are the best and highest standards, so that all of Florida students graduate from high school prepared for success in college, career and in life," she said in a statement Monday.
However, opponents are yet to be convinced. To them, even revised standards would constitute federal overreach, which renewed calls for a complete overhaul.
"Adding [standards] does not make these Florida's own standards by any means," said Laura Zorc, a Vero Beach mom and co-founder of Florida Parents Against Common Core.
Common Core State Standards are already being transitioned to by several schools across Florida, and new Common Core aligned tests are being developed by the state education department. Nonetheless, the benchmarks have become a point of contention in education circles, as well as a political wedge issue.
The Common Core is favored by supporters, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, because the standards stress analysis and critical thinking. However, the federal government playing a role in the education benchmarks is criticized by those on the right. They point out that even though the Common Core standards were created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, federal grant money was used to create some of the Common Core tests.
In addition, the broader movement placing too much emphasis on testing worries liberal critics.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott was prompted to call for a series of public hearings and a review of the benchmarks after the debate boiled over in Florida last summer. In October, three town-hall style meetings were held by state education officials, and more than 19,000 comments were received through the Internet. About 24% of the comments were supportive of the Common Core; about 28% of comments were unfavorable and the rest could not be classified, as found by a third-party analysis commissioned by the Department of Education. The 98 proposed changes grew out of that feedback.
As reported by Kathleen McGrory of Miami Herald, the revisions might not be enough to allay concerns according to Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. However, the education department acknowledging the need for some changes to math standards was satisfying to him.
"I do think that the work that was done is encouraging," Carvalho said. "It's a step in the right direction."