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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Education officials propose changes to Common Core State Standards



Hoping to incorporate public input and assuage criticism, state education officials on Monday released 98 proposed changes to the controversial Common Core State Standards.

The suggestions represent additions and minor tweaks to the national benchmarks, which have been adopted in more than 45 states and outline what students should know at each grade level.

Among state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s recommendations: adding 52 new calculus standards, requiring students to master cursive writing (a skill not included in the original Common Core standards), and introducing money concepts in the first grade, instead of the second grade.

Stewart said the proposed changes would strengthen the benchmarks, and make them unique to Florida.

"With your input, we have strengthened our standards to ensure they are the best and highest standards, so that all of Florida students graduate from high school prepared for success in college, career and in life," she wrote in a statement Monday.

But opponents were unconvinced. They said even revised standards would constitute federal overreach, and are renewing their calls for a complete overhaul.  

"Adding [standards] does not make these Florida's own standards by any means," said Laura Zorc, a Vero Beach mom and co-founder of Florida Parents Against Common Core.

The state education department will hold workshops on the proposed changes at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The state Board of Education will vote on the proposal in February.

The Common Core standards have become a point of contention in states from New York to Oklahoma.

Supporters, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, favor the benchmarks because they stress analysis and critical thinking, and are said to be more rigorous than what most states previously had in place.

The leading opponents are Tea Party groups and conservative parents, who disapprove of the federal government playing a role in the education benchmarks. They point out that even though the Common Core standards were created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, federal grant money was used to create new tests that measure the standards.

A smaller group of liberal critics supports the theory behind the Common Core, but is concerned that the broader movement places too much emphasis on testing.

The debate boiled over in Florida last summer, prompting Republican Gov. Rick Scott to call for a series of public hearings and a review of the benchmarks. Stewart held three town-hall style meetings in October, and launched a website to solicit public feedback.

The education department received more than 19,000 online comments.  

Stewart said that feedback, along with analysis from a team of education experts, was incorporated into the proposed revisions.

"I appreciate all of the feedback from teachers, parents, administrators and people across the state on Florida's English language arts and mathematics standards," she said.

[Last modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 11:28am]


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