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Common Core Here to Stay Despite Heckles by Conservatives, But Testing Questions Remain

| July 24, 2013

Common Core plays catch-up with the Far East, where schooling is stronger. (Angie Harms)

Common Core plays catch-up with the Far East, where schooling is stronger. (Angie Harms)

The decision by legislative leaders to call for Florida to withdraw from a group of states preparing new tests for student learning has set off a round of battles over the future of Florida’s involvement in the “common core” standards project.

And it causes complications for Florida education officials, many of whom support common core. The Flagler County School Board is supportive of common core and working toward implementing it fully.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, is a consortium aimed at coming up with tests that will measure students’ achievements under common core. Common core, in turn, is a set of standards agreed to by the overwhelming majority of states. States that participate in the program, supporters stress, would still be free to come up with their own curricula within common core.

But House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, raised several concerns about PARCC in a letter last week recommending that Education Commissioner Tony Bennett pull Florida out of the group and develop a “Florida Plan” for testing students.

“We cannot jeopardize 15 years of education accountability reform by relying on PARCC to define a fundamental component of our accountability system,” Gaetz and Weatherford wrote. “Our schools, teachers, and families have worked too hard for too long for our system to collapse under the weight of an assessment system that is not yet developed, designed nor tested.”

The two legislative leaders’ list of concerns about PARCC included: the program’s cost; a belief that it could require up to 20 days of testing for students (it would not); questions about the security of data gathered on students; how long it would take the state to receive the results; and whether the necessary technology will be in place.

Leaving PARCC would not necessarily mean leaving common core; PARCC is simply a set of tests that would measure how well students are learning the new standards.

Bennett was noncommittal in a statement last week about the letter from Gaetz and Weatherford.

“They are valued partners in our mission to help students and they raise critical issues that deserve serious consideration as I make a decision in the coming days,” he said.

Some of the concerns in the legislative leaders’ letter are inaccurate, according to Chad Colby, communications director for Achieve, which manages the PARCC project. For example, he said, students wouldn’t be tested for 20 days; states would merely have a 20-day window to administer the tests, which would probably take about eight hours for third-graders and nine and a half hours for students in higher grades.

And while the state doesn’t have the correct amount of equipment under some recommended standards for the tests, Colby said those recommendations are not universal, and some systems could potentially do the computer-based testing with less.

Colby also played down other concerns with the tests, saying any student data shared with the consortium would not include data that could be tied to individual students, and that Florida would get its results back before the end of the school year.

The consortium also put out estimates Monday saying the tests would likely cost an average of $29.50 a student, about a dollar less than the state pays per student for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, according to the Department of Education’s website.

That puts Florida in a different position than Georgia, which announced Monday that it would pull out of PARCC. That state spends around $12 on its current assessments, Colby said.

“That was going to be a more than doubling of their testing budget,” he said.

State officials still largely back the wider common core project, which is strongly supported by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who remains influential on education policy in the state. However, even Bush signaled in a July 19 column for the Tampa Bay Times that he might not oppose the state reconsidering its role in PARCC.

“I do not know what path Bennett will recommend to the Board of Education,” Bush wrote. “But I do know he is an expert on Common Core and PARCC. I am confident he will not rush into a decision and that what is best for students will be at the forefront of his decision-making.”

Despite the far-reaching support for common core among state leaders, some conservatives oppose the standards, which they see as a precursor to a national curriculum dictated by federal officials.

Those groups are somewhat divided on the significance of the letter. Randy Osborne, who has lobbied against common core in the Legislature on behalf of the Florida Eagle Forum [the ultra-conservative group headed by Phyllis Schlafly], said he was pleased with the letter — though his organization would still work to get rid of the all of common core.

“Some of the most damaging things in common core directly relate to the PARCC issues,” he said.

But John Hallman, who lobbies for conservative groups like the Florida Campaign for Liberty and Liberty First Network, said it was too early to be encouraged by the news.

“To me, I’m not going to get excited until I know what their plans are,” Hallman said.

And at some point, if Florida were to decide to scrap PARCC but continue with common core, the state will have to develop its own test, both sides agree. Colby said that could actually end up costing Florida more, because it wouldn’t be able to share the burden with other states. And it could raise concerns about quality.

“The real question is, when a state leaves and goes out on its own, what kind of a product do they get by working alone?” he said.

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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22 Responses for “Common Core Here to Stay Despite Heckles by Conservatives, But Testing Questions Remain”

  1. Binkey says:

    What they are really concerned about is giving up control of the test because when comparing Florida results with other states it will show how Florida schools are really doing.

  2. Magnolia says:

    I would say that the state party is about to find out that many don’t support this or the idea of Jeb Bush for president.

    Test: How many know this is Jeb’s program?

    [Correction: common core is supported by Bush’s organization, as it is by such organizations as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but it is not a product of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. Magnolia, students in Florida have routinely been penalized because the questions were badly framed or based on inaccuracies, not because students gave poor answers. Your question is based on an inaccurate premise.–FL]

    • Magnolia says:

      Another point of view for your readers:

      It is also my understanding that the RNC are opposed to Common Core. I would urge your reader’s to find out as much as possible about Common Core. I would advise parents to take a close look at the level of the curriculum being offered before passing judgment.

      While I certainly can’t disagree that students in Florida may have been penalized, I am not yet certain that Common Core is the answer. I am always suspicious when politicians gain from pushing a program such as this. Senator Thrasher has staked everything on this in spite of his national party and state Republican Clubs opposing.


      Thanks for your note, FlaglerLive. Don’t want to intentionally give false facts.

  3. Geezer says:

    I can only hope that these kids learn to “read cursive.”

    • M Hamilton says:

      To Geezer:
      Young applicants for drivers licenses cannot write their name in cursive.

      Currently, most kids cannot read nor write cursive because most schools and most teachers do not teach cursive. Cursive gives right/left brain connection. Remember Penmanship last century?

      Cursive will NOT be taught in common core programs.

      To all: the internet has ALL info you need about common core including the states and the reasons why they are NOT using common core. Many reasons NOT to use common core: two of the most critical are that 1) Baltimore proved common core significantly reduces test scores and the 2) cost is prohibitive.

      From: Grandma who believes in good penmanship resulting from creative minds with left/right brain connections

  4. John Boy says:

    These Right Winged Conservatives are working real hard to destroy everything that makes this Country great. No education, no taxes, no healthcare, no regulations, I think we need to stick their Good Book up their rears like they want to stick things up women.

    • boomer says:

      You have it wrong john boy, they are creating a voting block and little zombies that will have unproductive adult lives on my tax dollar while the kids with real educations will be recruited from overseas to come here and work for big biz at a much lower rate of income…..socialism is good until they run out of MY money…….

    • Magnolia says:

      You know, John Boy, I’m kind of tired of the Democrats doing the same. Millions lost homes, jobs, no jobs for kids graduating from college, healthcare at about $1,000 per month which families cannot afford and no end to the taxes and fees. Gas is about to go up again. When does it end?

      Just why do you think businesses are letting all full time employees go? I’d look into that one, if I were you because now only 47% have full time jobs in this country.

      That is NOT the fault of those nasty conservatives. It IS the fault of Teflon Man, you know, the one in the White House. And it is the fault of the citizens who pay no attention to what their government is up to and vote for somebody because they think he is cool.

      Best wishes, sir.

      • John Boy says:

        Magnolia, please tell me what the Conservatives have done, nothing but obstruction. How many job bills have they created = 0. How many times have they voted to eliminate health care + 39, How many times have the cut unemployment insurance = 7. They want to cut SS, Medicare, Medicaid, etc,, they simply don’t like middle class people. Do even get ne started at the State levels, The “Kocksuckers” wantb to have two class of people, the 1%’ers and skaves to provide labor while earning third world wages, no benefits, no education, no regulations.

        • Magnolia says:

          John Boy, as long as you use words such as Kocksuckers (which is cock, by the way), I’m not interested in responding. Suggest you go to and look it up yourself. It’s all there.

          Have a very nice day, sir.

      • A.S.F. says:

        There are several problems with your arguments, Magnolia, but selective memory appears to be among the foremost. The economy started to seriously tank when good ole’ boy George Bush was in office (and please don’t huff and puff about how that doesn’t matter because it happened SO LONG ago. We are still paying for the long-term effects of his administration’s disastrous errors and will be for some time to come.) The fact that businesses are already panicking about the effects of a Healthcare initiative that has yet to go into full effect just indicates the how stubbornly short-sighted and narcissistic the thinking of some businesses and CEO’s are. Gee, how could we think of saddling poor Papa John and the followers of Sam Walton with the burden of looking out for the interests of their own employees? Why, they might have to give up a Mercedes or two or one of their vacation homes–Outrageous! The fact that every study ever performed on workplace productivity indicates that businesses that take their employees welfare and needs into account do better than those who don’t shouldn’t figure into American business owners’ thinking–right? For your information, Barack Obama does not control the price of gas. The disastrous effects of environmental disasters that are the results of oil company’s negligience, however, have had, however, severe environmental and economical implications. And,If Republicans had their way, the oil companies would be further de-regulated.So much for common sense thinking. It is not Barack Obama’s fault that large businesses are sending their work overseas. We need to be doing a better job with educating our workforce for present and future demands. I don’t see Republicans coming up with great plans for that, nor do I hear them saying anything about not granting further tax incentives to companies that are currently outsourcing, to our country’s detriment. The economy has actually started to pick up under Obama’s watch. What else do you want from him that will make you regard him with an open mind, besides for his skin to somehow turn white? No Ayn Rand Republican radical (like Paul Ryan) or unblinking, mechanized storefront mannequin (like Mitt Romney) is going to be able to transform Amercia into a 1950’s sitcom brought to life. And neither will the Republicans that true believers like you appear to be happy to vote for , when their energies seem to be funneled into working as hard as they can against women’s reproductive rights and protecting the bank accounts of Wall Street Wheeler Dealers and CEO’s. As a country, we will die of thirst before “trickle Down” economics works ITS voodoo magic. Best wishes to YOU!

        • Magnolia says:

          ASF, I wasn’t arguing with anybody. Teflon Man works without our do nothing Congress. It is his policies which are causing this now. His spending which is causing this now, all $16 Trillion of it.

          I’m just as tired of all this as you are. What I said is that I am tired of the insults flying back and forth between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

          If you wish to continue, go right ahead. Beat your head into that wall.

        • Magnolia says:

          A.S.F. says:
          July 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm

          Your comments re Obama’s visit to Jacksonville: (Where’s the love now, ASF?)

          “Blaming one man for the past, present and future problems that our country faces is a cop-out. It’s the easy way out of thinking really hard about things that you find personally distasteful. Scape-goating is nothing new but, applied to a President of color, it is irresistible to some people and seems to make them positively gleeful. It is shameful to hear these people rooting for our President to fail. Our economy has been a challenge for ALL Presidents, past and present, Republican and Democrat. That’s the truth. Stop pretending that it isn’t and let’s concentrate on solutions that won’t necessarily require another election.”

          ASF: I agree. I’m just as tired of all this as you are. What I said is that I am tired of the insults flying back and forth between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

          If you wish to continue, go right ahead. Beat your head into that wall. But leave me out of it, ok?

          • A.S.F. says:

            Magnolia–I commend your obvious passion and concern concerning current events. You and I may disagree about a lot of things but at least we care. What I take exception to is your propensity to blame Barack Obama for every problem under the sun that our country is facing. He cares, too, and he is trying to promote an agenda that will make things better–not just for a select group, but for everyone, minorities included. This seems to be something that an unfortunate number of Americans take as proof that he is a Socialist/Communist/Muslim threat to our nation’s values and national security. Our American way of life has not been destroyed by Obama, as many of our Tea Party friends predicted. This seems to have disappointed them more than anything, so they have to continually come up with politically motivated smokescreens and scandals that, if not totally fabricated, are consistently blown out of proportion. Our country has so much hard work to do to get to the place where we all want and need to be. We shouldn’t allow the cynical self-interest of some get in the way of those of us who truly love this country of our’s and aren’t afraid of change.

            • Magnolia says:

              ASF: “My propensity (such a big word) to blame Barack Obama for every problem under the sun that our country is facing?”

              You want to blame the conservatives, the tea party, Bush, anybody but Obama. How do you know what we disagree on?

              You and I differ about what has been destroyed here and with me, it pretty much boils down to jobs. I don’t care who caused this, I care about seeing it fixed. Blame it on whomever you wish, but we are not seeing solutions, just more speeches. That doesn’t put food on my table, gas in my car, clothes on my kid’s backs.

              Change for the most part seems to be killing us. Politicians appear to be killing us, both sides. Why are we allowing that? Does that answer your question about our differences?

              • A.S.F. says:

                Magnolia–My goodness, how do you expect anything to improve, especially our jobs situation, if you are so against change that you are willing to go out on a limb to say that it is “killing us?” You are the one who continually refers to Obama with titles such as, “The Teflon Man” and went so far in an earlier thread as to suggest that he doesn’t like his country and has “issues” which pose some kind of threat to his ability to govern.You have made it quite clear how you feel about Obama–I don’t need to put words in your mouth. As for myself, I bring up George Bush because he did incredible damage to our country by getting us into the Iraqi War and tarnishing our reputation worldwide by condoning torture, quite openly and defiantly. Thousands lost their lives and we lost precious credibility. The economy was on the edge of collapse by the time he left office. As for The Tea Party, it speaks for itself and anyone without an axe to grind recognizes exactly what they really stand for….and, I’m sorry, but it ain’t pretty. We, ourselves, elect the politicians you are blaming for everything else, so I think, we have to share the blame for what we allow them to get away with. On that point, I hope we would agree.

                • Magnolia says:

                  ASF: I’m afraid you and I are just not going to agree on much. You can beat it to death with a stick if you like, I’m waiting for the speeches to end and the results to take place. Hope I live long enough to see it.

                • Magnolia says:

                  ASF: My goodness? How many homes have been lost since Teflon Man became president? How many jobs lost since? What has the additional trillions spent in the last 5 years done to ease any of this on those people who have suffered these losses? I know that a great deal of it has gone to the banks, to big corporations, to other countries, but how much to the people who suffered the most?

                  Politicians are politicians. You can’t even tell them apart anymore. If their lips are moving, they are likely lying. Everything they do is profit motivated, for them. Insider trading is now legal in the United States Congress. If you and I try it, we go to prison.

                  You are still trying to blame everybody else, with the exception of those currently in office. Does Teflon Man EVER stay in Washington? How do you know what the tea party stands for? Ever been to a meeting?

                  I’m afraid you and I are just not going to agree on much. You can beat it to death with a stick if you like, I’m waiting for the speeches to end and the results to take place. Hope I live long enough to see it.

                • A.S.F. says:

                  Magnolia– How do I know what the Tea Party stands for? Because I have actually listened to them and their so-called leaders hawking their lines incessantly on TV, in newspaper editorial sections and on radio, proudly proclaiming their fanatical beliefs (which, from what I can tell, are mostly fear-based and rooted in ignorance and stubborn self-interest, masquerading as patriotism.) And while I have never been to an actual meeting I have heard their slogans and seen their signs, which often feature Obama with a Hitler moustache. Besides, I thought you indicated in an earlier post that you are NOT a member of the Tea Party…So, what’s your actual point (besides hating a government you seem to feel is out to get you and ruin your childrens’ futures, especially while under the leadership of an Anti-Christ like Barack Obama?) The only politician I have read about you defending on this forum is Governor Rick Scott, whose previous convictions for Medicaid fraud make him less than a shining example of honesty and integrity in government. Go ahead and Beat THAT with a stick!

                • Magnolia says:

                  Perhaps now you know why this country is so divided. When citizens cannot be civil to one another, don’t expect government to be either. Stop putting words in my mouth. I think I’ve made my point.

  5. I'm a teacher. says:

    I love common core.

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