Pointing to feedback he received on the campaign trail, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday said Florida will revamp education standards and eliminate “vestiges” of the politically unpopular Common Core standards.
DeSantis’ announcement came five years after then-Gov. Rick Scott took aim at the Common Core standards, which were developed by officials in 48 states and have particularly drawn criticism from Republican voters. The State Board of Education in 2014 adopted what are known as the Florida Standards, a move that involved making changes to Common Core.
DeSantis, who took office Jan. 8, said during a news conference Thursday in Lee County that parents expressed frustration to him about Common Core and issues such as standardized testing while he campaigned last year. He said he was directing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to undertake a process that will lead to new standards.
“I’m here to say when you complained about Common Core, I hear you, I told you I’d do something about it, and today we are acting to bring those promises into a reality,” DeSantis said.
Though Scott touted moving away from Common Core in 2014, Corcoran on Thursday said Florida has been “stuck” with Common Core and alluded to the Florida Standards as a rebranding.
“It’s all the same, it all needs to be looked at, it all needs to be scrutinized,” said Corcoran, who was a state House appropriations chairman in 2014 and later became House speaker. “And we need to sit down with the experts, the stakeholders, the great superintendents, the great leaders in the community and figure out how do we write the best, No. 1 standards in the United States of America.”
DeSantis said Corcoran will lead an effort during the coming year to develop standards and to address other issues, such as “streamlining” testing in schools. He said he expects the results of the process to go to the Legislature during the 2020 session.
The announcement drew praise from the Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers union that has frequently clashed with Republican leaders over issues such as standardized testing.
“A deliberate look at what students must know is always appropriate, and it’s very encouraging to hear that Gov. DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran plan to bring teachers and parents to the table as they go about reshaping Florida’s standards,” Fedrick Ingram, president of the union, said in a prepared statement. “We’re also pleased to hear that the administration will look at streamlining testing. Parents and our members cite time spent on testing — as versus on genuine teaching and learning — as one of their top concerns. If all stakeholders are heard, we have confidence that this effort can improve public education in Florida.”
Kurt Browning, superintendent of schools in Pasco County, said he supports “streamlining standardized testing” and other initiatives proposed by DeSantis, such as an increased focus on civics education. But Browning expressed caution about moving away from the current standards.
“I ask Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran to consider the amount of time, funding, and effort teachers, administrators, and school districts have invested in professional learning, curriculum, materials and resources that align with our current standards,” Browning said. “I understand that parents have had difficulty grasping some of the standards, and there may be a need to adjust some of them. My concern is that we not lose ground in the progress we have made toward ensuring our students are prepared for the demands of college and the workforce.”
Debates about school standards and testing have repeatedly flared in Florida during the past two decades. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who was elected in 1998, made controversial changes to the system that included a heavy emphasis on testing and holding schools accountable for student performance.
After being developed by leaders from across the country, the Common Core standards have been adopted by 41 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Common Core website. But the standards in recent years became toxic in Republican politics, with many grass-roots voters viewing the standards as a national overreach into schools.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida