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New Florida Education Standards Won’t Be Implemented This School Year

Dr. Shandale Terrell (left) works with special needs students in Polk County, and cautions against changing curriculum standards mid-year. Photo: Shandale Terrell

CORRECTION: In an interview published today by WUSF, an opponent to proposed changes in Florida education standards incorrectly stated when the changes could be implemented. WUSF did not verify this information with the Florida Department of Education, which is our normal reporting practice.

The Department says there will be no changes to statewide assessments or the school grades calculation in the 2019-2020 school year. The department also provided a link to a website with details of the implementation plan for English-Language arts and math.

Florida has released new standards for education aimed at rooting out the last vestiges of Common Core. Governor Ron DeSantis announced the changes, called BEST standards, on January 24, and they'll be voted on by the State Board of Education on Wednesday.

But not everyone is in favor.

WUSF's Kerry Sheridan talked with Dr. Shandale Terrell, who works with special needs students as an ESE Support Facilitator in Polk County Public Schools.

Dr. Terrell, what is your view of these proposed standards?

"Well, we went through this with our previous governor, Governor Rick Scott. And he wanted to change the standards from the Common Core to Florida Standards Assessment test. And we went along with that as administrators, educators and staff members within the state of Florida, but those standards were implemented in the middle of the school year.

"The current governor, he wants to implement new standards, too. And all I'm requesting is if you're going to implement these new standards, don't input the standards for the 2020 year, wait until the 2020-2021 year and implement those standards at the beginning of the school year, which is only fair to all the educators in the state of Florida."

You wrote an op-ed last week in the Lakeland Ledger, in which you described these changes as not good for public schools. What did you mean by that?

"If we're educating students on old standards and you want to implement new standards on assessment tests, does that make sense? No, because the students won't even have the knowledge nor skill set to answer those questions on the new standards."

And that's why you say it would be unfair to change, mid-year?

"Right. It will be very unfair and very, very unethical, education-wise, in my opinion."

What would be other benefits of waiting until next year?

"The standards will more than likely be distributed throughout the districts over the summer. The educators will be able to familiarize themselves with the standards, have a better understanding, and then we'll have more time to implement those standards within our lessons."

And you also say that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is strategically undermining K-12 public school districts. What do you mean by that?

"My concern is that he has a strategy of supporting more charter schools than public schools, and if they're going to implement these standards now, in the 2020 year, that's my concern of undermining K-12 public schools to where he wants to support charter schools. And if the public schools this year fail with the new standards, the districts will fail, the state of Florida will fail and then they'll be more promotion for their charter school initiative, which is not right."

Since you work specifically with special needs students in middle school, how do think these new standards would affect them in particular?

"Just like with all students in the state of Florida, I believe it will be a challenge from when they're taught on the old standards -- on the current standards that we have right now -- compared to the new standards. They won't be familiar with the information and the content in order to test information that is given to them as far as reading the directions, the instructions for the English language arts, mathematics, science and civics sections. So I believe they'll be greatly affected. We are a Title I school, we work with socio-economic students, and I'm pretty sure a lot of schools are that way within the state of Florida, pretty much all public schools."

Do you think it's enough time for the State Board of Education to vote on these standards by Wednesday?

"I believe they're rushing it. I believe they should wait until the end of the school year, then they can vote on it. That would be more ethical. They want to push out the new standards. I think we should wait until after this year's testing session is over, then vote on the new standards and implement them."

WUSF reached out to the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, which advocated for the changes, but they did not answer our requests for comment.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.