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Politics

New School Year Means Common Core Clock is Ticking

August 20, 2013 - 6:00pm

Schools back in session in most parts of the state, and this school year is bound to be much different than the previous ones. Common Core State Standards are coming, bringing a wave of new ways that students are supposed to learn material in the classroom. The standards are set to be fully implemented by the 2014-2015 academic year, which means teachers and the Florida Department of Education will have to work quickly to get schools in the Sunshine State on track for whats to come.

Even though school was out for summer vacation, teachers across the state didnt take a break from their jobs. Over the summer, teachers around the state began preparing themselves for Common Core through special learning seminars hosted by the Florida Department of Education. More than 13,000 teachers signed up for the Common Core Summer Institutes.

Common Core is a learning initiative thats more focused on the why aspect of learning -- its more analytical and requires students to think more critically about what theyre being taught in the classroom. Common Core is very different from the way students are currently taught, but proponents of the standards say thats not a bad thing. They believe the standards will propel American students to higher levels of learning that will not only help them in the classroom, but will make them a force to be reckoned with in the real world.

Common Core will not only require students to think differently, but teachers will have to begin teaching differently as well. Teachers will begin integrating more project-based assignments for their students. Supporters of the movement are saying Common Core is going to give teachers more freedom -- and more creativity -- with their teaching methods.

Common Core had its setbacks over the summer. Former Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett worked to integrate CCSS into schools and left abruptly from his position, leaving FDOE without a permanent commissioner while the clock ticks down until the 2014 school year. The State Board of Education vowed that it would go forward regardless of Bennetts resignation.

In addition to students and teachers familiarizing themselves with Common Core, parents will also start to learn more about the standards this year.

Some parents already familiar with CCSS, however, believe its not the direction that Floridas students should be headed in and have expressed concerns about the initiative. Some concerns arose about the quality of the standards themselves and how student data would be collected and distributed. Some who oppose the standards also have apprehensions about what they view as a federally-regulated program.

Several state legislators are also hesitant about an integral part of the standards -- the testing. Florida currently tests its students for the FCAT, but under Common Core thats bound to change in the next few years. Thats because Common Core has its own test -- the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Speaker of the House Will Weatherford and Senate President Matt Gaetz have both expressed fierce opposition to the testing, due to the fact that many schools may not have the adequate technology to accommodate the testing standards.

Instead, Weatherford and Gaetz recommended that Florida create its own plan to measure student achievement that could include an entirely new set of tests.

If anything is clear from the path Common Core has already taken so far, it will likely be met with some backlash as parents and the public become more familiar with the standards before theyre fully implemented in every school across the state. Some states, like Michigan, have put a pause on the standards altogether, but its not clear whether Florida will follow suit.


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

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