In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the pending demise of Common Core (CC) in Florida, precipitating efforts by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) to derive improved Florida educational standards.
The final CC standards were available for evaluation only after the deadline to accept CC. After implementation, CC elicited many complaints: parents complained about stressful effects on children by the frequent state-based testing; teachers complained that about a third of their teaching time was devoted to accommodating those tests; and the paradigm for teaching early mathematics confused students.
Also, many complained about a deemphasis of American history, about weakness of the curriculum overall, and about political bias in the educational materials. The original architect of the plan, David Coleman, admitted that the curriculum did not equate to “college ready” for a quality four-year college. Even Bill Gates, financier of CC development, expressed disappointment in the actual results of the experiment.
What about results? The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) administers tests every two years to students from every state. From 1990 until 2013 (first year of full CC implementation), the scores for grades four and eight for mathematics and reading improved. Since 2013, those scores, including Florida scores, have either slightly descended or remained constant.
Also, NAEP also reports “... the appearance of a growing divergence in achievement between the highest and lowest achieving students. This divergence is seen for the nation as a whole, across states, and for student groups by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.” Why this latter finding? The original concept of “no child left behind” means that all students must satisfy one standard; this discourages exploiting the natural differences in talents and interests that can help motivate children.
What do we know so far about the emerging standards? The Florida Citizens’ Alliance (FLCA), comprising more than 55,000 Florida citizens, has coordinated with FLDOE to find excellent and proven standards. FLCA has arranged meetings between FLDOE Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Sandra Stotsky, who was the original overseer of English Language Arts (ELA) for CC, but refused to sign off on the final product. She created the Massachusetts standards for ELA, and Massachusetts dominates NEAP scores for ELA. FLCA also arranged a meeting between Corcoran and Lawrence Gray, architect of the Minnesota standards for mathematics, and Minnesota dominates NEAP scores for mathematics.
In addition, we expect to see more emphasis on students understanding the history of our nation, and why our place in history is unique. One positive result so far was the release of the Florida Back To School Reading List. Formerly, this list, by fiat, contained no books published before 2011, a truly incomprehensible decision. Now it comprises many classics of American literature, so we have movement in the right direction.
CC has vastly enriched the purveyors of educational materials, software, computers, and testing services, the so-called ”educational industrial complex.” But we need to put students, not profiteers, first. The final standards are due in December, and we’ll hopefully escape from a hastily and poorly conceived educational paradigm to a system based on actual large-scale results that makes Florida a model for the nation.