Florida business leaders put a spotlight Wednesday on the promise and potential pitfalls of Common Core – the tough, new academic standards that are rolling into Florida schools and will help re-shape teaching, learning and testing.
At a wide-ranging, day-long education summit in Orlando, several participants suggested a public awareness campaign to inform parents about the changes – which may be initially painful when they’re implemented in the 2014-15 school year – and to rally broad support in a way that has eluded many of the state’s other, recent education reforms.
“These tend to be Tallahassee conversations. But if we don’t do this right, it becomes a Miami conversation or a Jacksonville conversation” and not in a positive way, Marshall Criser III, president of AT&T Florida and chairman of the Florida Council of 100, told redefinED during a break. “We have an opportunity and responsibility to take this back to our communities … Because if not us, then who?”
“The state should own this initiative,” Education Commissioner Tony Bennett told attendees, reminding them of the marketing effort a decade ago for Just Read, Florida. “It shouldn’t be teachers against people. It shouldn’t be the state against schools, state against districts. This should be a statewide rollout that says this is important to our children and this is important to the future of our state.”
The Council of 100 sponsored the summit with the Florida Chamber Foundation, the National Chamber Foundation and the Institute for a Competitive Workforce. About 100 people attended, including three lawmakers, two superintendents, Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand and Florida Education Association President Andy Ford.
Spurred by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core standards in math and language arts have been adopted by 44 states. They’re well-thought-out and well-vetted. They’re benchmarked against international standards. They’re designed to instill a deeper knowledge than state standards do now. In the long term, supporters say, the higher bar will better prepare students for college and careers and an ever-more-competitive world. In the short term, though, ouch: They’re expected to result in a steep drop in test scores – and all the angst that comes with it.
“That’s a pain point,” Criser said. “But people have to understand that’s good,” he continued, because it’s the first step on a better path.
The discussion around Common Core has centered almost exclusively on public schools. But its gravitational pull is expected to be so strong that the impact will be felt at the private schools, too, to varying degrees.