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Politics

Judging Florida’s Preparedness for Common Core

July 16, 2013 - 6:00pm

What do Common Core Standards mean for the future of Floridas schools? To ensure they are fully implemented by the 2014-2015 academic-year deadline, its full-speed ahead to get teachers, students, parents and the public on board for what lies ahead.

The development of the Readiness Gauge, created by the Florida Department of Education at the request of the State Board of Education November 2012, measures how ready school districts across the state are for the Common Core State Standards. So far, most school districts seem to be ready for the transition.

A districts readiness takes several factors into consideration, according to the DOE. One of the main components of the readiness gauge is for a school district to have a concrete plan for implementation that includes all content areas and grade levels, a component to monitor the fidelity of implementation across grades, content areas and schools.

Districts must also provide evidence to support their plan, including a copy of the timeline for implementation, a description of the plan to monitor the fidelity of implementation across grades, content areas, and schools. Districts can provide additional information to help support implementation, but it is not required.

Each school district assigns itself a color rating judging how prepared they are for the CCSS -- green districts are districts ready for CCSS and have supporting evidence; yellow districts are those which have provided partial evidence; red districts have provided no evidence; and gray districts are not reported.

But some districts werent necessarily scrambling to put together an implementation plan because they had been working on a Common Core plan for a few years.

This was nothing new on [the districts] radar necessarily. They had been working really hard on everything Common Core-related for years, said Anna Shults, deputy chancellor for strategic initiatives of the Florida Department of Education. They just had to transfer it or put it in a particular format for the readiness gauge.

The first readiness report to the State Board of Education occurred in February.

The majority of school districts fit into the green category, but some -- including larger ones like Broward and Duval -- are yellow. Only a few districts fall into the red category, with a higher number colored red at the high school level.

Another component of the preparedness gauge measures just how prepared Floridas schools are for digital learning through the Digital Learning Readiness gauge, which measures which schools either meet or exceed the minimum standard student-to-computer ratio (2.75 students for every one computer in the 2012-2013 school year). There were far fewer green districts (75 percent to 100 percent) in Florida, with large school districts like Broward, Palm Beach, Duval and Orange counties all falling in the red zone (0 percent to 24 percent).

Twenty districts were colored red across the state, and many others were yellow or orange, which indicate only a slightly better performance in the Digital Learning Readiness gauge. Only 23 districts -- about a third of the states 74 districts -- were colored green, with a high readiness gauge, which raises questions of just how fast and how costly adding technology may be for the majority of districts in Florida.

But Shults says adding computers to the classroom isnt the only thing districts can do to improve their readiness for the Digital Learning Component of Common Core. Some districts are looking deeper into their broadband and wireless Internet. But implementing technology will still be a prime consideration for districts when implementing Common Core, partially because of its testing requirements.

When we think about the assessments that are coming with Common Core, the assessments will have a heavy focus with the use of technology, said Shults.

Not only will the assessments have a heavy focus on technology, but everyday learning will also attempt to integrate technology into the classroom as well. When we look at these standards in the elementary level, they literally require the use of technology to meet the standards, said Shults. Technology is really thought of as an instructional tool thats hopefully integrated on a daily basis.

So far, Shults said the response to Common Core from teachers has been positive, which speaks greater volumes than the gauges themselves.

Teachers are excited and have been incredibly positive, said Shults. It has taught us and showed us that districts are working incredibly hard. That is almost more powerful than the gauges: teachers showing examples on their learning and showing evidence of student work at the classroom level.



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


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