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Common Core Eliminated From Florida Schools by New Governor

Educators in the room applauded, although Gov. Ron DeSantis does not have a replacement plan, yet.

By Kimberly C. Moore

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he is signing an executive order to eliminate the Florida State Standards, commonly known as Common Core, the controversial benchmarks by which learning is measured in Florida. He made the announcement Thursday with Florida Education Secretary Richard Corcoran by his side.

"I am going to instruct Commissioner Corcoran to get to work and come up with some standards for the state of Florida, which will include eliminating Common Core and the vestiges of Common Core," DeSantis told a crowd gathered at Ida S. Baker High School in Cape Coral. "I'm here to say when you complained about Common Core, I hear you. I told you that I'm going to do something about it and today we are acting to bring those promises into a reality."

Educators in the room applauded, although DeSantis does not have a replacement plan, yet. He said he was sending Corcoran on a listening tour throughout the state to hear what teachers, parents, students and business owners have to say about how Florida should measure learning. They will write their proposal and send it to the 2020 Florida Legislature.

"We don't want to dilly dally, but, at the same time, we want to do it right," DeSantis said. "We could've dictated something on high, but I think it's definitely worth having Richard get into the communities, listen to people, so that we get something that a lot of people have confidence in."

Corcoran, who advocates charter schools and public-funded scholarships to private schools, called DeSantis "the boldest, number one education governor" in the country.

"We've been stuck, as many of you know, a long time now with Common Core and then we rebrand it and we call it Florida State Standards -- it's all the same," Corcoran said Thursday. "It all needs to be looked at, it all needs to be scrutinized. How do we write the best, number one standards in the United States."

Members of the Polk County School Board seemed cautiously optimistic about the move.

"I can tell you what this means politically -- this is the end of the Jeb Bush education era in Florida," said School Board member Billy Townsend. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush introduced his A+ Plan 20 years ago, tying student learning to teacher salaries, bonuses and school grades. It also created the charter school system, allowing students to attend schools that are privately built, but use public school money to pay for almost everything else.

Townsend and others said their only misgiving is they don't know what will replace it. Other questions that remained unanswered by the governor's office Thursday evening was how this would affect graduation, if teachers could throw out their standards on Friday morning and teach what they see fit and if the Florida Standards Assessments tests would still be given beginning in the spring.

"On the surface, I would say it's great," said School Board member Sarah Fortney. "But if we peel back the layers, we might find that what gets replaced might be worse, especially if it's going to require some sort of money that apparently we don't have. We have geared everything in this county to what the state tells us to do and, once again, they're changing the playing rules. If history serves as any kind of reminder, it's usually our public schools that get punished."

Both Fortney and School Board member Lisa Miller said they were heartened to hear that DeSantis is sending Corcoran out to speak to stakeholders.

"Good for him, working across the table -- we need more of that," Miller said. "He's doing stuff the public has asked him."

Miller added that, even though DeSantis said this was not going to be a program dictated by the federal government, the state still must follow the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

School Board Chairman Lynn Wilson said he wanted to wait and see what this means -- and what will replace it.

"I have no idea what he's thinking," said Wilson, adding that Florida needs a two-tiered system for students -- one that sends them to college and another that trains them in a trade so when they graduate, they have a certificate to begin work right away.

Through a spokesperson, Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd declined to comment. The other school board members did not return calls seeking comment.

The president of the state's largest labor education association said he supported a look at education standards and testing.

"A deliberate look at what students must know is always appropriate, and it's very encouraging to hear that Gov. DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran plan to bring teachers and parents to the table as they go about reshaping Florida's standards," Fedrick Ingam said. "We're also pleased to hear that the administration will look at streamlining testing. Parents and our members cite time spent on testing -- as versus on genuine teaching and learning -- as one of their top concerns.

"If all stakeholders are heard, we have confidence that this effort can improve public education in Florida."

(c)2019 The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.)

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