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Public Hearings On Common Core Education Standards Finish In Tallahassee

The Florida Department of Education wrapped up its listening tour in Tallahassee Thursday. Groups from across North Florida gave Department officials an earful, for and against new Common Core learning standards being implemented in the state’s public schools.

In recent months, opposition to Common Core has increased to the point where state officials are trying to distance themselves from the program. But there’s not enough distance yet for Orange Park Parent Debbie Higgenbotham’s liking:  

“When it comes to school and education, I send my kids to learn the ABC’s and 1-2-3's, not all the other rubbish," she told state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart during the public hearing.

Higgenbotham was one of more than 100 people at the last public hearing on Florida’s education standards held by the state education department -- meetings convened at the direction of Governor Rick Scott.

But others, like Beth Mims, say Florida has to be consistent when it comes to the standards it sets. 

“I’ve heard them described as ‘gobbledygook, but when I look at language standards--such as describe the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs adjectives, adverbs in general...I’m convinced they provide pretty specific direction for a teacher on the expectation for students.”  

Groups like the conservative Fordham Institute have found Common Core to be equal to or better than the standards Florida currently has in place. And the fact-checking group Politifact Georgia has also debunked several claims, such as the claim that tests aligned with Common Core will lead to data mining on students. Florida’s been collecting that data for more than a decade.

Department of Education officials say they plan to use the feedback from the meetings to "tweak" Florida's education standards, but Stewart was vague when asked whether that "tweak" could also mean recommending the state withdraw from common core, as opponents have pushed for.

*Clarification: Beth Mims, Chief Academic Officer for Wakulla County Schools was addressing the need for consistency in Florida standards, and not the need for standards aligned with other states.

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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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