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Critics Blast Florida Department of Education Ahead Of Public Hearings Over Standards

Florida Stop Common Core Coalition
Dr. Karen Effrem, co-founder of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

Florida Department of Education officials will hit the road next week to get feedback on the state’s education standards. The public hearings were outlined in Governor Rick Scott’s executive order aimed at addressing criticism of the Common Core education standards. But even before hearings get underway, critics of the standards are calling them a sham.

More than 40 states adopted Common Core education standards three years ago. Since then, Florida has been implementing the new learning requirements in its public schools. But in the past year, criticism of the standards has ramped up dramatically.

Those on the left claim the standards, and their attached tests, will lead to greater reliance on standardized testing. Those on the right say they represent a greater loss of local control over education and too much federal intervention. The criticism culminated in September with an executive order by Governor Rick Scott that, as Karen Effrem, founder of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition says, hit all the right notes, but:

“It doesn’t do much at all. It has given both legislators and a segment of the public the idea that the problem is fixed. And it’s nowhere close to being fixed.”  

Effrem and other critics want Florida to fully withdraw, not only from a battery of exams aligned with Common Core called PARCC, but from the standards themselves. Scott’s executive order doesn’t do that.  What it does do, is require the Florida Department of Education to hold public hearings. But Effrem says she doesn’t think the meetings will be transparent because, she says, people won’t be able to talk about what they want to and will be limited on time:

“There hasn’t been a significant discussion of what the format will be. It’s been rumored to be three minutes per standard, but when we’ve tried to confirm that we’ve gotten no answer or varying answers," she said.

But the Florida Department of Education says that's not the case.

“Right now, we haven’t nailed down how much time each speaker will have, because we don’t want to limit the amount of time we give to each person," said FLDOE spokeswoman Tiffany Cowie. "Say if 10 people show up—we’ve allotted three hours for public comment, and we want to hear all they have to say.”   

Cowie says the department does plan to use the feedback garnered through the committee hearings to tweak Florida’s learning standards, but also noted a full repeal or rewrite of them is unlikely.  Cowie also says the department really wants people to come with specific concerns.

“Because we really want input so we can make adjustments to the standards where they need to be adjusted. But if someone does come with a statement they wish to make, we will have people from DOE there to listen to those comments and thank them for bringing them, but there won’t be a back-and-forth discussion on those statements.”  

The Common Core standards are already in place in elementary, middle and high schools. Furthermore, Florida teachers and other state officials have been heavily involved in the development of the PARCC exams, which are in limbo in Florida. But Florida Stop Common Core Coalition’s Karen Effrem says anything short of a full repeal isn’t good enough:

“We are prepared to give the Governor and the Department the benefit of doubt...but if they continue in this vein of ‘faux appeasement’ and don’t want to do want to deal with the standards, then, they’ll have a hard time in 2014.”    

Meanwhile the state board of education will meet Tuesday and plans to take up a resolution cementing many of the issues outlined in Governor Rick Scott’s executive order. But since the order didn’t do much to change Florida’s educational landscape, critics say they don’t expect the State Board to do much either.

For more news updates, follow Lynn Hatter on twitter @HatterLynn

Follow @HatterLynn

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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