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Capital Report

Governor Orders Revamp Of Florida Education Standards

A man in a brown suit speaks at a podium. In back of him is a colorful wall.
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Governor Ron DeSantis says he wants to get rid of all remnants of Common Core standards in Florida’s public schools.

At a high school in Cape Coral Thursday, DeSantis gave his newly appointed education commissioner some marching orders.

“We are doing an executive order that is going to instruct Commissioner Corcoran to get to work and come up with good standards for the state of Florida which will include eliminating Common Core and the vestiges of Common Core,” DeSantis said.

Common Core standards provide benchmarks for what students should learn in math and English by the end of each grade. Five years ago, Republican leaders made some changes to the benchmarks and dumped the name Common Core, opting instead for Florida Standards.

Now, DeSantis wants Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to quickly move the state toward something new. “He’s also going to tell us how we can increase the quality of our instructional curriculum,” DeSantis said. “He’s going to suggest innovative ways to streamline some of the testing and to make that so that it’s something that is measuring success, but we’re not just teaching to a test.”

Corcoran is the former Florida House Speaker who heavily promoted school choice. Now, he has a year to come up with recommendations.

“We’ve been stuck, as many of you know, for a long time now with Common Core,” Corcoran said. “Then we rebrand it. We call it Florida Sunshine State Standards. It’s all the same. It’s all the same. It all needs to be looked at. It all needs to be scrutinized, and we need to sit down with the experts, the stakeholders, great superintendents, great leaders in the community, and figure out how do we write the best number one standards in the United States of America.”

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he likes DeSantis' plan for changes to education policy. But he told the Miami Herald that getting rid of the current standards won’t be easy.

"Let's recognize that these shifts are complex, and they usually are very costly,” Carvalho said. “Any changes to the standards results in changes to the tests that students have to take and very costly textbook and curriculum adoptions. So I support the decision to review it, but we ought to do it methodically and carefully."

DeSantis’ order is also getting a thumbs up from an unlikely source – the Florida Education Association (FEA). The FEA is the state’s largest teacher’s union. The group has long butted heads with the Republican-controlled legislature’s support of school choice, especially charter schools

FEA President Fedrick Ingram says the union has long wanted the state to look at changing the standards, especially when it comes to high stakes testing. “For far too long, we have had an overreach of assessment and teaching to the test," Ingram says, "and it has put undue pressure not only on the teacher and schools but on the individual students. This high stakes testing must be a part of the conversation.”

He says teachers must also be part of the conversation. Ingram says the governor’s order is recognition that state education policies have overreached and are partly to blame for a teacher shortage.

“There were 4,000 classrooms this year that did not have a certified teacher, and we’re having a very difficult time in the state of Florida recruiting and retaining teachers,” Ingram says. “The testing and the Common Core (are) all a part of what has happened to our profession because it is not made by, for, and about teachers.”

The governor wants recommendations for the new standards to be crafted by next January for presentation to the Florida Legislature.

~WGCU and WLRN contributed to this report.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. She left after a few years to spend more time with her son, working part-time as the capital reporter/producer for WLRN Public Media in Miami and as a drama teacher at Young Actors Theatre. She also blogged and reported for StateImpact Florida, an NPR education project, and produced podcasts and articles for AVISIAN Publishing. Gina has won awards for features, breaking news coverage, and newscasts from contests including the Associated Press, Green Eyeshade, and Murrow Awards. Gina served on the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters board of directors and now serves on the board of the new Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists. In her free time, Gina likes to read, travel, and watch her son play sports. Follow Gina Jordan on Twitter: @hearyourthought