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Common Core Takes Center Stage at State Board Meeting

September 17, 2013 - 6:00pm

The state Board of Education had its first meeting of the school year in West Palm Beach on Tuesday, where Pam Stewart was selected as the new commissioner of education and the implementation of Common Core State Standards was further discussed.

The standards once again took center stage at the meeting, as two board members -- Kathleen Shanahan and Sally Bradshaw -- expressed their division from the rest of the board in regard to Common Core and how Gov. Rick Scott was handling education across the state.

Shanahan, whose term ends in December, seemed unhappy with the boards progress since their meeting in July, saying it was crisis time for Floridas schools because of the short timeline until the full implementation of Common Core. She also took issue that the governor didnt show up to his own three-day education summit which was held in Clearwater last month, and spoke of a rumored education-related executive order about which the board had not been consulted.

Its embarrassing for him that hes disrespecting the statutory integrity of this board, she said.

Bradshaw spoke about the lack of direction from the governors office, saying it led to some grey areas for the board moving forward.

Because the governors office has not given great direction on this, theres uncertainty, Bradshaw said.

But other board members disagreed with Shanahan about the crisis state of Floridas education system.

I dont think were in a crisis, said Chairman Gary Chartrand. He also noted the Department of Education had made progress since the education summit -- which he attended, while Shanahan did not.

Stewart agreed with Chartrand that the Department of Education wasnt in a crisis, but did say she believed the next year was one of urgency due to the short timeline until full implementation of the standards.

The board members showed their support for the standards, which are said to provide students with a deeper understanding of classroom material and better prepare them for college and beyond. Chartrand said Common Core is the best thing that's happened in education in his lifetime, and Vice Chair John Padget said he made sure to reiterate his support for the standards when he spoke with the Associated Press earlier this week.

Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Floridas Future, also weighed in on the progress of Common Core on Tuesday at a press conference in Tallahassee.

While there are fewer standards with Common Core, Levesque said that doesnt mean students wont be learning just as much -- if not more -- in the classroom:Fewer standards does not mean we are teaching our students less.

Levesque emphasized that a difference between the current state standards and Common Core is that teachers will be teaching more deeply in earlier grades so they dont have to repeat lessons every year.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, was also present at the press conference and showed his support for the standards. Fresen was recently tapped to the Board of Control for Southern Regional Education by Rick Scott.

[Common Core] is the most logical and well-studied next step for our state, he said.

But while there seems to be general support for Common Core in the Florida Department of Education and in education organizations across the Sunshine State, there may be several roadblocks on the way to full implementation of Common Core. Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford both advised former Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett to pump the brakes on the testing assessment of Common Core, PARCC, saying its too costly and time-consuming to be implemented. Instead, they advocated Florida having its own assessment test over PARCC.

Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, has also filed legislation to pause going forward with PARCC. Her legislation would also require the state to pull out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. In addition to leaving PARCC behind, the bill would also require the state Board of Education to meet certain requirements before moving forward with the English and math portions of the standards and specifically bar it from implementing Common Core in any other subject areas.

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

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