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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida superintendents ask for three-year transition to new standards, testing



UPDATE: The Florida Association of District School Superintendents decided to release its proposal today. It calls for the three-year transition mentioned below and a suspension of the school grading system until the 2017/18 school year. A transitional model wouldn't assign single letter grades. See the full proposal here.

Florida has experienced major upheaval in its accountability system over the last few years, with the increasing complexity of its grading formula and a fast push to tougher standards. To lessen the impact, the state has agreed three times now - at the urging of superintendents - to protect school grades against dramatic drops.

Now superintendents are asking the State Board of Education for a three-year transition period to the new Common Core State Standards and associated tests. Margaret Smith, superintendent of Volusia County Schools, told board members Tuesday that it was "not realistic" for the Common Core to be fully implemented in the 2014/15 school year, as has been planned for some time.

"Much has changed since the original timelines were set," she said. 

Common Core, which has been adopted by more than 40 states, is more rigorous than Florida's previous standards. This year, it was implemented in kindergarten to second grade. Many schools are using it at all grade levels. Florida's leaders don't seem ready to drop it altogether.

But the state's march to new standards hit something of a roadblock this year, as Gov. Rick Scott pushed for the state to leave the testing consortium, PARCC, and called for hearings to allow the public to weigh in on the standards. At this point, it's still unclear whether the state will make any changes to the standards and what test will be used to assess students and teachers.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said Tuesday that any recommended changes to the standards will come to the state board as early as February. A test should be selected by March. 

Smith, who was representing the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, said superintendents are concerned that the standards are "in jeopardy." She said there also are concerns about technology, school grading, the availability of instructional materials, and training for teachers. Superintendents are worried that there's not enough time to prepare "in an adequate way," she said.

She said teachers are under "tremendous pressure" because they're being trained on Common Core at the same time that they are expected to be teaching the material.

FADSS has developed a proposed timeline for implementation that would address some of those issues, she said. A spokeswoman for FADSS said they weren't releasing the timeline until later this week.

Board members didn't have much reaction to Smith's comments. Kathleen Shanahan, an outgoing member who was opposed to the grade padding, said students appear to be performing well, despite changes to the system. She noted that NAEP scores were about the same or better in this testing cycle.

"That sounds like adults that we're trying to take care of," she said of the proposed three-year timeline. "The students seem to be doing fine."

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 4:31pm]


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