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Florida's Education Commissioner Coming To Tampa For Education Standards Tour Stop

Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran, shown here last week at a Gainesville tour stop, brings the topic of educational standards to Tampa on Thursday. Credit: The Florida Channel
Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran, shown here last week at a Gainesville tour stop, brings the topic of educational standards to Tampa on Thursday. Credit: The Florida Channel

How Florida classrooms will be taught post-Common Core will be the focus of a listening tour stop in Tampa Thursday by Florida's top education official, Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

The Florida Standards Review marks the fifth time in less than 25 years that the state will go through a revision process. It replaces the controversial Common Core, which Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered scrapped earlier this year.

The stop at Jefferson High Schoolis part of a nine-city listening tourtaking comments about the proposed revisions. Doors open at 5 p.m. for the 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. meeting.

The Florida Standards determine just about everything that goes on in the classroom, from class lessons to textbooks, from testing to what students study.

Vince La Borante, the president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, said he hopes the rules will be simplified.

"When you look at other standards of some of our competitors in foreign countries, there's so much less, but they’re so much more concentrated,” La Borante said. “And I was personally thinking that if there's going to be a change to our Common Core system here in Florida, that maybe the light bulb finally went on. And maybe legislators, the Department of Ed, would embrace the concept of sometimes less is more.

But La Borante added: “I don't really think that's what's going to be presented, to be very honest with you."

Opponents of Common Core say the new list of skills that students must master are moving in the right direction, although they insist more work remains.

Karen Effrem is the executive director of Florida Stop Common Core Coalition. She says this is not just a political exercise.

“There's certainly a political aspect to it,” Effrem said. “But people that have followed this all along realize what an educational disaster Common Core has been.”

She especially lauded Corcoran’s new literature reading list as a step in the right direction. She said her coalition supporters also want to see more phonics and basic math equation skills, sooner.

“It's still a work in progress, but we're heading in that direction," Effrem said. "For instance, in the math requirement, the use of the standard algorithm in Common Core didn't start until fifth grade, which is about two years behind, when it should be [earlier] for high performing countries and states. It's now down to third grade, which is much, much better.”

Teachers, education reform advocates and parents alike found Common Core to be, at times, a political football and, at others, a confusing nightmare.

It was initially adopted in 2010 by 40 states as the product of the National Governors Association and an effort to have a national set of standards. But some parents complained that once-basic skills were set aside in favor of new learning methods that left them scratching their heads and unable to help their children with homework.

During the Obama administration, Common Core found itself in the sights of conservatives, especially Tea Party members, who labeled it as an unwarranted intrusion by the federal government into local public schools.

The effort to revise the standards is extremely complex and leaves some teachers feeling whip-sawed by changing requirements of the many specific topics they have to teach in their classrooms.

“Stay tuned,” said Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association teachers union, “because it's going to be a long process and it will take a lot of time and it will take a lot of money that will take away from money that's needed for other things.”

People interested in giving feedback on the proposed standards can find them and upload comments at the Florida Standards review website.

Wayne Garcia is working with the WUSF newsroom and its digital media interns for the fall 2019 semester.