Local News

District on Common Core track in wake of assessment unknowns

SEBRING - Highlands Superintendent of Schools Wally Cox said the district will continue with the implementation of the Common Core Standards as Gov. Rick Scott severs a state tie to the partnership developing the student assessments on the standards. Cox said he was informed about Scott's decision in a Monday afternoon conference call with State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and members of the governor's staff. The message to the superintendents was to continue with the implementation of the Common Core Standards that were approved by the Legislature in 2010, he said. In the conference call, it was related that Scott doesn't want anybody to dictate what curriculum, textbooks or instructional materials the state uses, Cox said. "Even if we do Common Core it should be left up to the school districts and states to implement the curriculum and materials. They didn't want that coming from the federal government."
Scott ordered the Florida Department of Education to stop managing the financial affairs of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is developing the tests that are aligned with the Common Core Standards. In a letter Monday to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Scott said, unfortunately PARCC has become a primary entry point for the involvement of the federal government in many state and local decisions on education. "As the federal government continues to maintain its unwarranted involvement in PARCC, it is important that we examine other alternatives to select an assessment that best meets the needs of Florida students, parents and teachers, not the needs of the federal government or other states," he said. Cox noted that the governor didn't say what assessment would be used, just that an "appropriate" assessment would be used. Cox said that Stewart noted the state will remain on the same testing schedule, which means the FCAT 2.0 will be used this school year, but in 2014-15 some type of common core assessment will be administered to students. "I think the standards will stay almost identical to what Common Core is because there is nothing wrong with them," Cox said. The superintendents are concerned that the state has a short period of time to figure out what assessment will be used next year. Stewart hopes the state will decide on an assessment by March 1, Cox said. School Board Member Donna Howerton said she sees the governor's point on removing the state as the fiscal agent for PARCC. The state will hold three public hearings for input on the Common Core Standards, which could be tweeked, but she hopes there are no major changes because the district has already incurred the cost of new textbooks that are aligned with standards, Howerton said. "I want our students to have the highest of standards, but it is kind of concerning ... and now we are having to re-look at things," she said. Governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia developed the Common Core of State Standards in English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. These standards seek to define the knowledge and skills that students should have to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing, academic courses and in workforce training programs, according to the National Governors Association. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826