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New national learning standards raise the bar for students, teachers


By 2015 almost all of the nation’s public school students will be learning the same things when it comes to math and language arts. Florida and more than 40 other states have adopted uniform education standards called the common core. For the first time ever, students across the county will be learning the exact same things at the exact same time.

“The common core essentially levels out the playing field across the country. It’s a voluntary program where states embrace a new set of standards. So it’s an idea whose time has come," said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvahlo, one of the guest speakers at the event.

More than 2,000 teachers from Leon and surrounding counties came to Tallahassee’s Civic Center Monday to find out first-hand what those new standards are all about.  And it will be up to teachers to bring that information home.

“We’re trying to move and get our teachers ready so they’ll know what to do and what their expectations are. And I’ve got the highest level of confidence in teachers throughout this state. If we give them what they need they’ll continue to provide excellent education for the students throughout Florida," said Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons. 

Kindergarteners started under the program last year, and this year, Florida will include first and second graders.  these new standards are much more in-depth, and challenge students to prove why they think a certain way.

“They have to cite evidence from text when they answer questions. Before we did this transition I’d say there were a lot more lower-ended questions like, 'what color is the car the man is driving?'" said Hartsfield Elementary School Reading Coach Katherine Soles. "Now it’s 'How do you know the man is angry?' and then they’d have to go and cite evidence from the text. The author wrote that he was furious.'”   

The new standards put more emphasis on students justifying and proving their answers. As Florida works to phase in the common core learning requirements it is also phasing out the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT. By 2015, public school students in all grade levels in participating states will be learning under the common core system, and they’ll all be taking the same test.  The goal is to teach students how to think, and to prepare them for college or careers.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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