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2014: A Noisy Year in Florida Education

December 21, 2014 - 6:00pm

2014 was a busy year in Florida education. It was a year of change for students, parents, teachers and schools statewide -- and it was also a year of unmitigated controversy.

Heres a look at the year that was in Florida education.

Common Core Gets a New Name

In January, Common Core State Standards were given a new name to bring them a little closer to home. Along with a series of slight changes to the new education standards set to be fully implemented in Floridas schools this year, the Florida Department of Education also decided to distance itself from the name Common Core. Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart renamed them Florida Standards and their implementation roared along full-speed ahead.

Not everyone was happy about the department's rebranding effort, however. Critics claimed the new name meant little if any change from Common Core, vowing to push onward with their quest to remove the education standards from Florida schools.

Bye Bye, FCAT

This year marked the end of the FCAT, the standardized test schools have used to measure academic achievement since 1998. Several testing companies fought for the coveted $220 million contract to take over standardized testing in the Sunshine State. In March, it was announced the American Institute for Research prevailed overall.

Schools will administer the AIR test for the first time this spring.

The Battle Against Vouchers

The Florida Education Association took on a controversial bill to expand the states voucher program in a lawsuit filed in July. Student vouchers, which allow low-income students to attend higher-performing charter schools or private schools, were the target of the lawsuit. The FEA and groups supporting the legislation contended the voucher program caused public schools to lose out on important funding because of the program, which began in 2001 under former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Advocates of the voucher program said that without it, nearly 70,000 students would be deprived of the opportunity to attend better schools.

Lee County Opts Out -- Then Back In -- to Standardized Testing

Lee County made a bold move in August when its school board voted to get rid of standardized testing. School board members criticized the tests for setting students up to fail, calling the tests too experimental to be used in assessing academic progress.

Opponents of Common Core came out in full force to show their support for the Lee County School Board decision, but the decision didnt prove to be long-lasting. In September, board members reversed their decision to back out of testing, much to the dismay of anti-Common Core groups statewide.

Common Core Goes to the Ballot

Opponents of Common Core vowed to stick it to candidates who supported the education standards during this years general election. Some anti-Common Core groups sat out during this years election while others voted for third-party candidates like Libertarian Adrian Wyllie.

One group in particular, Florida Parents Against Common Core, took a different route, however, and ultimately decided to pledge its support to Gov. Rick Scott, who is in favor of the standards. Ultimately, Scott walked away winning a second term.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen via email atallison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

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