The push towards new common core standards adopted in Florida by state legislatures has brought a series of new changes to education. Among these, one of the most significant will include the shift towards a new state test to replace the FCAT.
This shift to common core standards means that learning will be more analysis oriented rather than memorization and recitation oriented. The new test is meant to be much more rigorous than the FCAT, as well, and is supposed to be a reflection of what students are taught in a regular classroom setting.
Currently, there are many major companies competing to win the bid to write and produce the new test– among those ACT and Pearson– but thus far a decision has not been made.
Although the PARCC, Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness, was Florida’s number one choice to be the new provider of these tests, they did not submit a proposal on the account that they are not able to use funds provided to them toward winning contracts in states. Therefore, the Florida Department of Education claims they will not be using the PARCC. These Race to The Top funds they are given are grants the Race to The Top Contest provide for complying with the Common Core.
“Last spring, when it became clear that there would be no field testing, I decided I could not support the standards. I objected to the lack of any democratic participation in their development…and I was fearful that they were setting unreachable targets for most students. I also was concerned that they would deepen the sense of crisis about American education that has been used to attack the very principle of public education,” said Diane Ravitch, who leads the movement against school reform influenced by corporations.
“My fears were confirmed by the Common Core tests. Wherever they have been implemented, they have caused a dramatic collapse of test scores. In state after state, the passing rates dropped by about 30%. This was not happenstance. This was failure by design.”
Within 18 months a test should be produced and ready to be distributed during the next school year, despite the fact that Governor Rick Scott has shed light on the costs associated with carrying this through and the Florida Association for District School Superintendents proposed waiting about three years before releasing a new test. Also, this test will be used to determine the possibility of graduation for high school seniors in the upcoming school year, though it hasn’t been developed yet.
“Just because they’re replacing the FCAT with more analysis doesn’t mean it does any good for the students,” says Mindy Li, a junior in the Health Academy. “When you’re so caught up about passing the test and teachers place so much emphasis on that because they’re told to, it’s not creating a better learning environment or ensuring all kids are learning. Standardized tests do just the opposite. More tests mean more tests, period.”
One of the effects this shift to common core will have would be how it will change the curriculum teachers are expected to teach to children, how teachers will be evaluated, and will school and district grades be pushed back until after the change takes place.
Many of the specifics of this project are still unknown.
What is known, however, is that teachers will have to base their lessons around more analysis, and will have to take on a more in-depth approach to lessons as opposed to covering as much possible material without as much depth.
Many welcome this shift to common core standards while many do not. Common Core, however, is here to stay.