The set of academic standards in Math and English was recently removed from the school’s curriculum. But what does this really entail for students?
By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
On February 7, the Florida Department of Education announced the elimination of Common Core following an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis. The news has been well received by the vast majority of parents and educators who for years have complained about the so-called “crazy math” referring to the way in which this subject is taught under Common Core, first implemented in 2009.
Those who approve the motion argue that these standards are confusing and a poor reflection of the student’s performance and competence. However, after the announcement was made many wonder how the performance and progress of both students and schools will be measured from now on, and what can students expect.
With the purpose of answering a few of the questions that this news left, here is what we know about Common Core and the standards that would replace it.
The controversial aspects of Common Core
If you arrived in the country after 2009 and still don’t understand what this is all about, we should start by saying that Common Core was first created in order to define what each student should learn in every academic level from kindergarten through twelfth grade and to measure the quality of public schools.
With this goal in mind, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association’s Good Practice Center (NGA Center) joined forces to establish an educational framework with the help of teachers, administrators, university professors, company representatives, and other education experts.
Although it was a nationwide effort, only 34 states and the District of Columbia fully committed to Common Core by implementing it in their schools and participating in standardized tests. Florida was one of them.
With this system, it was possible to begin quantitatively measuring the quality and progress of each public school expressed in a grade that goes from A to F, which became one of the criteria to decide whether or not a school should receive financial help to, for example, buy computers or hire more staff.
Having this measurement system in place, it was guaranteed that all schools operating under the umbrella of Common Core were to follow the same teaching parameters focusing more in reasoning and less in memorization. In addition, it also served as recognition for students, teachers, and schools.
This, in practice, translated into all public schools having to abide by a set of rules, including making the students take state exams such as the SAT that is intended to measure whether or not the established requirements are met at each academic level.
However, although initially, Common Core was promising, problems began to arise over time. For example, the excessive pressure felt by teachers with state exams taking into consideration that its results largely determine the teacher’s competence.
This led many to argue that everything taught in classrooms under these standards is aimed for students to pass state tests and not to prepare them for college as is supposed to be.
This represents a burden not only for teachers but also for students who often feel that their academic performance and future is measured in a single exam and not throughout the year.
In addition, these standards have also represented a headache for parents who do not understand today’s math. “It is supposed to be about helping students understand concepts better, but we (parents) learned in a different way. That is why we struggle when doing homework with our children, ”says Dr. Belinda González León, president of Premiere Educational Consulting.
For all this, it was decided to eradicate Common Core from school that, as announced on February 12, would be replaced by a set of standards called Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST).
Are the new standards more of the same?
After the eradication of Common Core standards was announced, a few days later the Florida Department of Education made the announcement that a three-year plan would be put in motion to implement BEST standards. The first stage of such a plan is scheduled to start at the beginning of 2020- 2021.
By 2022-2023 all classrooms in Florida should have made a complete transition to this new system. During these three years, new course descriptions will be adopted, revised instructional materials will be sought and the state tests will be aligned with the new expectations.
This decision came with its dose of controversy, because before the standards were unanimously approved, some members of the Florida Board of Education, such as Michael Olenick, expressed concern that it was a system similar to the previous one but with another name.
In response to that, other members such as Jacob Oliva, who presented the standards to the committee, and Richard Corcoran said that although some lessons will be basically the same under the new standards, the information will be presented to students in a different way.
However, many agreed that the important thing about all this is that the standards are improved over the existing ones and that there is training to parents and educators in order to prepare them for the new standards.
“We cannot return to a system in which all schools follow their own line of education because it is important to define what the student should learn in each course and verify that they are effectively doing so, to guarantee that there is a unified academic level,” says Belinda Leon.
But in addition to the above, what’s really important about any system that replaces Common Core is for students to be more satisfied with the school, learn better and feel less pressure with exams and academic duties.
For now and as the first stage of the process progresses, it is already known that the new standards will include civic education in all grades, short standardized tests and more accessible math for all. It is expected that as early as this month, the updated descriptions of the courses begin to be reviewed.
For more details, go to www.fldoe.org and find the document “Commitment to Eliminating Common Core, Ensuring High-Quality Academic Standards and Raising the Bar for Civic Literacy”.