By MARC VALERO
SEBRING — A mix of parents, educators, community leaders and the public attended the Florida Standards Listening Tour, Monday evening at Sebring Middle School.
It was the first of nine stops on the Florida Department of Education’s tour across the state for input on the second draft of the revised standards for mathematics and English language arts (ELA).
State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran did not attend, as he had planned, because he accompanied Gov. Ron DeSantis for the announcements on raising the teacher minimum pay.
FDOE Public Schools Chancellor Jacob Oliva and Deputy Chancellor Paul Burns were present to hear from the public and offer the background and timeline on the standards revision.
Oliva noted that in February DeSantis issued an executive order directing the Department of Education to comprehensively review the academic standards for Florida’s kindergarten through 12th grade and provide recommendations and revisions to the governor by Jan. 1, 2020.
The purpose of the executive order was to ensure Florida has the best academic standards in the nation by eliminating Common Core and paving the way for Florida students to receive a world class education that prepares them for jobs of the future.
Highlands Teachers Union President Shawna Warren recommended a gradual transition for students and teachers to whatever standards come out of this process so teachers can make sure that curriculum is properly aligned with the standards.
“We need time to ensure that the standards clearly articulate what students are supposed to learn in each grade,” she said.
The last time there was a change there was a gradual process in the first three years and after that all the standards were implemented, which resulted in gaps in the content the students were being tested on, she said.
John Nelson, chairman of the Highlands Tea Party, said there has been a fight against Common Core for many years. Nelson felt privileged to be invited to DeSantis’ announcement at Cape Corral High School when DeSantis said Common Core is dead in the state of Florida.
“I think he [DeSantis] and Commissioner Corcoran are doing a fantastic job of putting this education system back where it belongs,” Nelson said.
Florida Board of Education Chairman Andy Tuck read a comment from the Hendry County School District, which stated that a review by the Heartland Educational Consortium of the ELA Standards for grades six through 12 brought a concern about the variety of “language standards” where the wording was “incredibly vague.”
It is understood that instruction should not be limited to examples in the standards, they urge those working on the revisions to consider too much vague wording will also result in teachers struggling to understand the parameters of the standards especially how they align to state tests, according to the Hendry County comment.
Cracker Trail Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Cheryl Velasquez advised to not expect students to do something they are not developmentally ready for because that is setting them up for failure.
“What you are expecting of kindergartners is not necessarily developmentally appropriate,” she said. The standards have to be understandable to the teachers, parents and the students.
Kindergarten, first grade and second grade parents call her because they don’t understand the standards, Velasquez said. “How can you expect somebody to help their students when they want to help them in fourth and fifth grade.”
Oliva explained the key differences between the current standards and the second draft of proposed standards:
• Focus on understanding and application of skills.
• Verbs have been changed to be more measurable.
• Language is clear and concise to demonstrate progression of content.
• Eliminate examples from standard language to not limit instruction.
• Included more real-world scenarios.
• Communicate clear expectations to students, teachers and parents.
• Consideration of pathways for college and career readiness.