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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Common Core foes attack Florida's new test provider



With Florida's transition to the Common Core State Standards looking more certain daily, opponents of the effort are going all out to try to stop the movement.

The latest effort? To blast the American Institutes for Research, chosen this week to create the state's FCAT replacement tests.

"Pam Stewart has made an appallingly bad choice for the state test to replace the FCAT," the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition said in a March 19 letter to supporters. "Not only does the American Institutes for Research (AIR) do major behavioral/mental health testing and research and is developing the test for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), but they are very involved in developing briefs and other information promoting acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle for elementary age school children."

The rhetoric mirrors the criticisms launched by Utahns Against Common Core after that state picked AIR to provide its new tests in 2012.

From the Utah group: "Why is this troubling? 1. American Institutes for Research refers to LGBT 'CHILDREN & Youth' and so AIR is an organization that believes not only in the sexualization of children, but in labeling and counseling those children at a very young age."

From FSCCC leader Karen Effrem: "It is still all Common Core all the time, and the state has chosen a company promoting controversial sexuality and mental health issues to test and profile our children." She urges conservative activists, who formed Rick Scott's electoral base in 2010, to let the governor know how unhappy they are with the selection of this "unacceptable" group.

There's no question that AIR does work on LGBT issues. Its website states that it "develops knowledge and understanding about LGBT youth that takes account of their experiences and needs." That includes providing training and technical assistance to agencies and organizations.

It does not promote lifestyle choices, though, spokesman Larry McQuillan said. "We actually don't advocate for anything," he said, describing AIR as a research and assessment organization that also studies homelessness, substance abuse, bullying and aging, among other issues.

Florida Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick, meanwhile, said he did not want to dignify the attacks. "We are focused on ensuring that Florida’s students have the best parts in place to ensure their success in college, career and life," he said. "We welcome any and all conversations on issues relevant to this goal."

[Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 11:43am]


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