Governor Ron DeSantis turned his attention to education last week, announcing that he is ordering the state’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to come up with new education standards and erase the “vestiges” of current standards, commonly known as Common Core.
Under an executive order, Corcoran will spend a year creating new state curriculum standards. They will then be presented to the Legislature for the 2020 session, which starts in January.
The announcement has garnered applause from a wide-range of interests, including from some parents, Republican lawmakers and the state teachers’ union.
But will it actually get done? And what will it be replaced with?
“That is the question of the day,” Emily Mahoney, a reporter at the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, said Friday on The Florida Roundup.
According to Jessica Bakeman, WLRN’s Education Reporter, overhauling an entire set of standards is a massive undertaking.
“The standards are this basis and everything else is based on it," she said. "So if you want to really, truly get rid of the Common Core standards and adopt something new you're talking about getting all new curriculum, all new textbooks, all new tests … all of that is really expensive.”
Common Core is a set of guidelines that determines what K-12 students learn, adopted by 44 states and the District of Columbia beginning in 2010. The standards set expectations for student achievement at each grade level, and were part of an Obama-era effort to raise the bar on U.S. education.
In Florida, schools began implementing Common Core in subsequent years. But by 2014, Gov. Scott led the charge to do away with the standards after widespread disapproval, including complaints from some parents that Common Core was a federal mandate. “We’re not going to have the federal government telling us how to do our education system,” Scott said at the time.
Others, from both the left and the right, criticized the focus on testing and teacher evaluations tied to student test scores. Many parents complained that they could not understand their kids’ homework.
In the end, Florida did make change, but that was a “surface level revision,” Bakeman said.
“They essentially added a set of standards for calculus for high school and they added a standard that said students have to learn cursive and they renamed it Florida Standards,” she said.
This time around, it remains unclear how the state will go about devising new standards -- and paying for them to be implemented.
At Ida S. Baker High School in Cape Coral, DeSantis said on Thursday: “We stuck with Common Core then we re-branded it … it’s all the same. It all needs to be looked at, it all needs to be scrutinized.”
The Florida Department of Education could sit down with teachers and principals and parents "in-house," Bakeman said. “They also might bring in a contractor to do that,” she said.
“And once the new standards are in place, then school districts are going to have to be looking for ... curriculum that is aligned to the new standards, or maybe the state has to commission a company to write curriculum based on the standards, and then the tests would have to be based on the new standards,” she said.
The huge nature of the endeavor to overhaul the state’s standards has some lawmakers cautiously optimistic.
"There's no question that Corcoran will go along with this and take a really hard look at the standards, but the question really lies in what the legislature has to do because ultimately this is just a recommendation," Mahoney said.
State Sen. Manny Diaz, a Republican who is deeply involved in education, told Mahoney he looks forward to reviewing the recommendations.
But “even he was cautious,” she said. “It’s far from settled what this will look like and how much Common Core will be left in it.”
“The question is whether this is going to be another surface level change ... that checks a box so that the governor can say 'I followed through on my campaign promise,'” Bakeman added. “Or whether this is actually going to be a massive overhaul, in which case it's going to require a massive investment.”