Florida House and Senate Bill Allows Schools to Write Own Academic Standards

Florida’s Historic Capitol and Current State Capitol Building in Tallahassee, FL.
Photo Credit: Michael Rivera (CC-By-SA 3.0)

A bill filed in the Florida House and in the Florida Senate allows Florida school districts to write their own standards provided they are equivalent to or better than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Florida’s current standards which the bills would make the minimum baseline were the product of a review and revision of the Common Core State Standards.

Essentially, the revisions made stayed with the 15 percent threshold allowed by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. They did put cursive back in their standards, and the Florida State Board of Education in 2013 rejected the Common Core appendices.

Even so, the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards are still functionally Common Core just like every other state we’ve seen pursue the “review and revise” method of addressing them.

State Representative Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) introduced House Bill 825 in the Florida House. The co-introducers are State Representatives Stan McClain (R-Belleview) and George Moraitis, Jr. (R-Fort Lauderdale). The Florida Senate companion bill Senate Bill 966 was introduced by State Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) and it is co-introduced by State Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach).

The bill says a school district’s standards must “(b)e equivalent to or more rigorous than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, or courses offered in the district for the International Baccalaureate program. Instructional materials adopted pursuant to these standards must be consistent with school district goals and objectives and the course descriptions established in rule by the State Board of Education.”

It also reads:

Curricular content for all subjects must integrate knowledge-based learning, critical-thinking, and problem-solving, and workforce-literacy skills; communication, reading, and writing skills; mathematics skills; collaboration skills; contextual and applied-learning skills; technology literacy skills; information and media-literacy skills; and the demonstrable, in-depth understanding of the founding values and principles of the United States as required by s. 1003.42

The bill states all standards whether the school adopts the state’s current standards or adopts higher ones they must meet the following requirements:

(a) English Language Arts standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language which significantly improves student outcomes.

(b) Science standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, the nature of science, earth and space science, physical science, and life science. Controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner.

(c) Mathematics standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability, number and quantity, functions, and modeling.

(d) Social Studies standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, geography, United States and world history, government, civics, humanities, and economics, including financial literacy. Financial literacy includes the knowledge, understanding, skills, behaviors, attitudes, and values that will enable a student to make responsible and effective financial decisions on a daily basis. Government and civics content must strictly adhere to the founding values and principles of the United States as required under s. 1003.42. Financial literacy instruction must shall be an integral part of instruction throughout the entire economics course to and include the study of at least Keynesian and Hayekian economic theories, in addition to understanding the basics of information regarding earning income; buying goods and services; saving and financial investing; taxes; the use of credit and credit cards; budgeting and debt management,including student loans and secured loans; banking and financial services; planning for one’s financial future, including higher education and career planning; credit reports and scores; and fraud and identity theft prevention.

(e) Visual and performing arts, physical education, health, and foreign language standards must establish specific curricular content and include distinct grade level expectations for the core content knowledge and skills that a student is expected to have acquired by each individual grade level from kindergarten through grade 5. The standards for grades 6 through 12 may be organized by grade clusters of more than one grade level.

Here are the reporting requirements the bill gives:

The district school superintendent shall annually certify to the department that all instructional materials for core courses used by the district are aligned with all applicable state standards, including those that are equivalent to or more rigorous than the applicable state standards or are aligned with courses offered in the district for the International Baccalaureate program; and have been reviewed, selected, and adopted by the district school board in accordance with the school board hearing and public meeting requirements of this section.

The bill does not explicitly give the state the authority to reject the annual certification or whether or not they can determine whether a school’s standards are in fact higher.  There could be an administrative rule that does, but I don’t see any language indicating that in this bill.

Should the bill pass it would go into effect on July 1, 2018.

Note: I’ve reached out to State Senator Mayfield’s office for background on the bill, as well as, Karen Effrem with the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition to get her thoughts on this bill. I’ll update when I have additional information.

Update: Sue Woltanski, a parent in Florida told me she suspected the bill had to do with Hillsdale College’s Classical Curriculum. She wrote to me in an email, “The economic theories mentioned (the study of at least Keynesian and Hayekian economic theories), I believe, is a priority of Hillsdale College. Our House Speaker (Corcoran) and a few legislators (specifically Rep.. Donalds) are closely tied to Classical Charters, associated with Hillsdale. “

Karen Effrem also got to me. “The purpose is to allow districts to write their own standards with the Common Core as the floor instead of the ceiling. So they use what they want if anything from Common Core, but still, give the appearance of using CC so as not to get the state’s or feds’ undies in a twist about rejecting the standards,” she said in an email.

Judge Rules in Favor of Parents on Florida’s Mandatory Third Grade Retention

Florida State Flag

Parents in Florida saw a victory last week when Judge Karen Gievers gave students who were not promoted to the fourth grade due to their minimal participation in the Florida Standards Assessment. Gievers gave a temporary injunction allowing some third graders to be promoted where school districts did not allow “a teacher-compiled portfolio that consists of non-test class work and test-based standards assessments.”

Gievers sided with the parents, finding that the Department of Education and the Hernando County School Board violated the law when they illegally refused to provide any portfolio option and that “neither the [Department of Education or local school boards] have the discretion to ignore the Florida Laws.” Gievers’ ruling defined what “minimal participation” is by stating that “the children were present at the time, broke the seal on the materials and wrote their names, thus meeting their obligation to participate.” In addition, she wrote: “The School Board and [Department of Education] had no right to ignore the legislatively adopted portfolio option” and ordered the Hernando County School Board to “immediately refrain from further actions and must provide the portfolio option.” She ordered education officials “to stop refusing to accept a student portfolio or report card based on classroom work throughout the course of the school year.”

The Court also found it unlawful in districts such as Hernando County where a child without a reading deficiency who has not passed the FSA is held back, citing Florida Statute 1008.25(5)(c)(6) which prohibits retaining students solely for FSA non-compliance.

The judge ordered the Department of Education to stop disseminating misinformation that promotion required a level 2 score on the statewide test, finding that report cards and classroom work could be used to promote a third grader.

“We are very pleased that the court agreed with us that it is in the public interest that the State Board of Education and school districts in Florida follow our laws, and focus on whether children can read, not whether they took a particular test,” said Andrea Flynn Mogensen, lead counsel for the children.

“We are especially pleased that it was specifically ordered that the Department of Education must accept minimal participation in testing as fulfilling the students’ statutory requirement to participate, and that grade 3 students with no reading deficiency should be promoted, not retained.”

The ruling can be read here.

HT: The Opt-Out Florida Network

Florida Department of Education Suggests Changes in Common Core

florida-sealThe Florida Department of Education yesterday released a list of proposed changes to the Common Core Math and ELA standards.  The list that will be considered by the Florida State Board of Education at their February 18th meeting includes 13 changes to the English language arts standards and 33 changes to the math standards.  Nine of those changes in math are new standards.

The changes include clarifications to make standards more grade appropriate like adding “with prompting and support” to instead of requiring kindergarteners to know the author and illustrator for each book they read or that they can ask and answer questions about unknown questions in a text.  They are also adding cursive to the ELA standards (which they could do regardless since they can add 15% to the standards according to the agreement they signed).

Most of the changes were just to add clarity to the standards.

With math, they are suggesting, adding Calculus standards (again within the 15% margin). 

You can see the ELA proposed changes below:

You can see the Math proposed changes below:

The commenting period ordered by Florida Governor Rick Scott ended on 10/31/14.  The comments were supposedly evaluated and standards rewritten in 2 1/2 months (over the holidays).  That’s pretty fast.  Since it seemed as though they were adding text to clarify standards and then adding new standards the state department of education was primarily keeping within the 15% margin according to the agreement they made.

That’s hardly the change Floridians opposed to the standards were looking for.  I’m not saying all of the changes were bad.  Adding calculus is good, but this doesn’t address problems with the math standards that will, according to Dr. James Milgram of Stanford University (who served on the Common Core Math Validation Committee) will leave American students one year behind their international peers by 5th grade and two years behind by 7th grade.

Adding cursive is good, but there is still an emphasis on experiential, skills-based learning in the ELA standards, as well as, a reduction in the amount of classical literature, poetry and drama that should be taught in English classes.  There is still a misplaced emphasis on informational text extracts.  The standards still support analyzing texts that lack historical context and background knowledge.

What leaps out in my mind the most is that there was around 14 hours of testimony given with 19,000 written comments and they suggest only 46 changes?

That tells me they didn’t do anything beyond what their 15% allowance.  Florida residents should be outraged.

Stotsky Calls For Abolishment of Florida DOE

StotskySandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts and Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, released a statement concerning the upcoming summit called by Florida Governor Rick Scott concerning the Common Core State Standards.

Stotsky also served on the Common Core validation committee for the English-Language Arts standards and refused to sign off on them.

Here is her full statement below:

I have been invited by parent groups in Florida to comment on Common Core’s English language arts standards using the format that Interim Commissioner Pamela Stewart chose to give them.  Although Governor Scott requested meetings at which parents could express their concerns, she deliberately chose a method that in effect prevents discussion and an open forum.  By telling parents that they can comment only one by one, and only on the particular standards in Common Core, in a 3-hour period of time, she is in effect spitting in their faces. Parents can also send in their individual comments by computer, a method that also prevents discussion. If this is how a Department of Education treats the parents of the children whose education this Department is supposed to improve, then there is no reason for Florida parents to support the existence of such a Department. It should be abolished by referendum.

I was a senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999 to 2003.  At no time were critics of the Department’s draft documents treated as shabbily as Florida parents are now being treated.   Public comment was regularly allowed at Board of Education meetings, and the Department held many meetings around the state when it was developing the Bay State’s own standards. And when criticism was received on drafts of standards documents, the Department staff courteously and publicly answered these criticisms. They acted as public servants, not as bureaucrats trying to foist their own untested ideas on other people’s children.

The Massachusetts Department of Education also held a large public meeting on Common Core’s standards to which the standards writers were invited. It was informative for the audience to hear Jason Zimba, the mathematics standards writer, indicate that Common Core’s math standards would not prepare high school students for STEM. I recommend that the Florida Department of Education hold a similar meeting and invite parents and teaching faculty at its own higher education institutions to attend and question Common Core’s standards writers.

Boom.

Florida Puts Common Core Tweets on Hold; Kansas Ramps Up

Twitter Fail Whale

Twitter’s Fail Whale made out of Legos.

The Florida Department of Education reportedly is putting its Common Core tweets on hold.  WLRN reports:

The Florida Department of Education has put it’s daily tweeting of Common Core State Standards on hold while the agency prepares for a series of public meetings on the math, English and literacy standards.

The agency started sending out a standard of the day to its more than 6,000 followers last month. But DoE communications director Joe Follick said he put the practice on hold after Gov. Rick Scott requested three public meetings to discuss the standards.

Tweeting out a standard a day, Follick said, might give the impression the agency was favoring certain standards over others. Scott has asked the public to come to the meetings prepared with criticisms of specific standards.

“For us to tweet out one a day could create the appearance we’re favoring some,” he said. “We’re asking everybody to review [Common Core]. I just want people to look at it with a clean slate.”

Yes as if they don’t favor the Common Core.  Are we supposed to believe that?

Kansas on the other hand has “ramped” their tweeting on the Common Core up.  I  am using the word “ramped” loosely.  The Kansas Department of Education started tweeting one Common Core “fact” (talking point) a day. They are using the hashtag #EducateKS.  So let’s #EducateKS by tweeting the truth about the Common Core State Standards that they are not getting from their Education Department.

Photo Credit: Bjarne Panduro Tveskov via Flickr (CC-By-NC-SA 2.0)

Florida Governor Addresses Trinity Christian Academy’s EOC Assessment Problem

400px-Rick_Scott_official_portraitDr. Dennis Robinson, the Headmaster of Trinity Christian Academy in Deltona, FL and President of the Florida League of Christian Schools, emailed me this afternoon to let me know his guidance counselor received a response about the end-of-course assessment debacle from Florida Governor Rick Scott via the Florida Department of Education:

Dear Ms. Hellender:

Governor Rick Scott asked our office to respond to your email regarding your request for clarification on Florida public school transfer of high school credit requirements. On behalf of the Governor, we are pleased to provide you with the following information.

The provisions adopted by the State Board of Education on March 2, 2012, related to Rule 6A-1.09941, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), State Uniform Transfer of High School Credits, became effective on July 1, 2012, as stated in the opening paragraph of the rule. This rule establishes uniform procedures relating to the acceptance of transfer work and credit for students entering Florida’s public schools. The purpose of this rule revision is to reflect changes from the 2010 Legislative Session. Section 1008.22(9)(b), Florida Statutes (F.S.), was revised to add that if a student transfers into a high school, the school principal shall determine whether the student must take an end-of-course (EOC) assessment in a course for which the student has credit that was earned from the previous school.

If a student transfers into a Florida high school from out of country, out of state, a private school, or a home school, and that student’s transcript shows credit received in Algebra 1 or an equivalent course, the decision as to whether the student must take Florida’s EOC assessment shall be made by the school principal as follows:

· A transfer student with high school credit in Algebra 1 will not take Florida’s Algebra 1 EOC Assessment if the student passed a statewide, standardized EOC assessment in that course, if administered by the transferring school; or if the student achieves an equivalent score on another assessment as identified pursuant to s. 1008.22(11), F.S.

·A transfer student will take Florida’s EOC assessments in Algebra 1 under all other circumstances and must pass the EOC assessment to earn credit in the course.

Florida private school students do not participate in the statewide assessments because these assessments exist to meet federal and state assessment accountability requirements for Florida public schools; however, public school students attending private schools through the use of a school choice scholarship, such as the McKay Scholarship, may take the EOC assessments.

Currently the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has not approved another assessment that would be an alternative to the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment. Although there is a provision in s. 1008.22(11), F.S., for the Commissioner to analyze the content and equivalent data sets for nationally recognized high school achievement tests and industry certification tests to assess if equivalent scores for EOC assessment scores can be determined, a timeline has not been established.

Thank you for sharing your views and contacting the FDOE. Please direct questions related to this response to Ms. Helen Lancashire, School Counseling Consultant, at Helen.Lancashire@fldoe.org or (850) 245-7851.

Sincerely,

Teresa Sweet, Chief

Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction

The only guidance that this provides is that principals can determine what to do with incoming transfers so this perhaps gives Dr. Robinson some latitude with which to deal with incoming students who have taken Algebra I, but failed the EOC assessment.  Since private schools don’t participate he could probably grant the credit.  Currently there is no way any of his or other private school’s students transferring out can receive credit for Algebra I and Biology unless they take the state’s EOC assessment.  Theoretically, the only way for a student to be prepared to take that assessment is for that private school to adopt the same standards as the public schools (read Common Core State Standards) at the moment.  As Sweet mentioned, there is a provision in the Florida Statutes for the Commissioner of Education to approve an alternative exam, but the current Education Commissioner, Gerard Robinson, has resigned effective August 31st.  So who knows when or if that’ll happen.

Cross-posted from Caffeinated Thoughts.