Local Control for Common Core-based Curricula

Florida Department of Education is not abandoning the standards


Folio Weekly cover story, “Problems at the Core,” follows proponents and critics in depth as they debate the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Florida’s schools. Yesterday, Florida’s Board of Education voted to allow districts to choose their own teaching methods and materials in line with Gov. Rick Scott’s stated policy of local control for public school curricula. It does not change the standards upon which those curricula are to be based, i.e., CCSS.

The Florida Department of Education adopted CCSS in 2010, began implementing them in 2011, and on Oct. 15 addressed the appendices to the Common Core Compact. 

Florida’s Board of Education voted 5-1 to allow local districts to voluntarily decide whether or not they will adopt the Common Core appendices, Florida Times-Union reporter Matt Dixon said. He said an editing error removed the word “appendices” from his story in the Oct. 16 Times-Union. There is no indication at this time that Florida will ditch CCSS, i.e., the goals upon which local curricula will be based.

The appendices would have extended the 45-state Common Core Compact, or memorandum of understanding, to matters going beyond just the standards, or learning benchmarks, into the realm of curriculum. “Standards” are “what” students should learn, while “curricula” are “how” they learn those standards, i.e., by which teaching strategies and course materials. Curriculum matters, proponents have said all along, are to be determined by local districts.

Scott suggested the move toward local district control of curricula in a letter to board chairman Gary Chartrand dated Sept. 23. That same day, Scott declared in an executive order that Florida would withdraw from the 18-state test-development consortium, Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC), and abdicate its position as fiscal agent for that organization. The executive order came one week after the Miami-Dade Republican Party issued a resolution opposing both CCSS and its yet-to-be-named aligned test. The Miami-Dade GOP was apprehensive about perceptions of federal intrusion, invasions of student privacy, and inappropriate or obscene material on common-core-related reading lists. Reading lists fall under the auspices of “curricula” and are therefore subject to local control. The Oct. 16 BOE meeting merely formalized the governor’s policy to leave curricula in the hands of districts.

Look for local districts to hold meetings throughout their communities to hear criticisms and dispel myths surrounding the new academic goals. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, which Chartrand helped establish in 2009, has already begun its campaign in favor of implementing the standards.

In other business, the board voted to keep in place a controversial school grades “safety net” which means that schools won’t drop more than one letter grade below the grade earned in the previous year. Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is on record opposing the safety net. He told the Times-Union that the effort to soften the blow for schools that might otherwise earn an “F” merely continues to confuse the public as to what the grading system means.

Vitti would have preferred a “baseline year” with no grades to the safety net, he told the Times-Union.

“We’re eroding the public trust that those [test] results mean anything,” Vitti said in an interview for Context Florida. “Let’s keep things consistent for long enough to determine whether kids are learning at a higher level or not.” 

Read the full story about the Common Core here.

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