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Politics

Education Summit Wraps Up in Clearwater

August 27, 2013 - 6:00pm

The three-day education accountability summit called by Gov. Rick Scott came to a close Wednesday after lengthy discussions on four key priorities for Floridas education system: state standards, state standard assessments, school grades and teacher evaluations.

The event gathered a variety of education professionals, teachers, and even legislators made appearances to discuss the future of Floridas education, which will be seeing big changes over the next few years.

The most notable change in Floridas school system is coming from Common Core State Standards, which will change the way Floridas students learn material. Floridas teachers will have to adjust their teaching methodologies to focus more on critical thinking in the classroom.

Interim Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart was called by Gov. Scott to lead the summit. Stewart was vocal on the four priorities for Floridas education system, chiming in to answer questions of what will happen next for Floridas schools.

Although Gov. Scott called the summit, he did not actually attend.

Stewart spoke out on the differences between Common Core State Standards and Floridas current state standards, which will be heading out the door come the 2014-2015 school year.

"Some important distinctions would be that closer reading, that ability to really be able to justify one's answers, the modeling in math, the analytical thinking, is the step that we took," she said about the standards. "The content itself does not change much at all."

The interim commissioner recommended a blend of the current state standards and Common Core State Standards while Floridas schools are in a transitionary period from one set of standards to the next.

A sizeable portion of the summit was focused on group discussion of state standards, assessments, school grades and teacher evaluations. Day one of the summit brought heated conversation about the future of Floridas assessment tests. Florida currently has its students taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), but under Common Core students would take a different test, known as Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

Former Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett abruptly left office before deciding whether Florida would participate in a national testing consortium that is developing an assessment for Common Core State Standards. PARCC has already gathered considerable criticism from high-profile legislators such as Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford who believe the testing will be too time-consuming and far too costly to implement in Floridas schools.

Stewart said there was no rush to determine whether Florida would transition to PARCC or whether the Sunshine State would choose its own test.

School grades also came under fire on Wednesday, as there is considerable disagreement on whether to keep or abolish the safety net provision which protected schools from dropping more than one letter grade in a given year.

State Board Chairman Gary Chartrand expressed his support of keeping the safety net.

"We need to make sure we have some stability in our system as we move to Common Core," Chartrand said.

The State Board of Education already plans to vote on whether it will extend the safety net for Floridas school grades through 2014.

Although a good deal of the summit was spent reviewing and discussing its key priorities, attendees also worked together in groups to hash out nearly every issue facing Floridas education system. Participants brainstormed ideas for teacher evaluations and school grading.

While the summit did not result in a new set of standards or of grading formulas, the suggestions and recommendations from the summit will ultimately be taken to the governor and the State Board of Education. Gov. Scott plans to use the recommendations as framework for legislation in 2014, and the State Board of Education will also be utilizing the summits suggestions to shape educational policy in the future.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at allison@sunshinestatenews.com.

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