Monday, January 22, 2018
Education

Florida needs to continue with Common Core, some summit participants say

CLEARWATER — With a fraying accountability system and a skeptical public, Florida needs strong leadership to support the transition to the new Common Core State Standards and to fight "misinformation" coming from critics on the right and the left.

The leadership has to start with Gov. Rick Scott.

That was the message conveyed by many of the 36 participants in a three-day education summit organized after another bruising year in Florida's education system. The state saw another education commissioner abruptly resign, and the Board of Education agreed at the 11th hour to pad school grades. The so-called "safety net" will be considered by the board for the third straight year in October.

"I think we need strong, courageous leadership," said Doug Tuthill, one of the summit participants and president of Step Up for Students, an organization that provides tax-credit scholarships to low-income students.

Scott organized the summit but won't attend, a spokeswoman in his office confirmed Tuesday. He charged Pam Stewart, the interim education commissioner, with leading it, instead relying on communication from staffers who did attend.

No one expects the summit to result in a new set of standards, tests or school grading formula, Stewart said Tuesday. But their talks would inform future discussions by lawmakers and the state board, she said.

Participants broke into teams to discuss each topic, then came back for larger group discussions.

Few at the summit questioned Tuesday that Florida would continue phasing in the more rigorous Common Core standards, which have been approved in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Supporters say the new standards will emphasize critical thinking and provide a better state-by-state comparison of student performance.

Opponents — an unusual mix of tea party groups, libertarians, progressive activists and some Democratic lawmakers — fear a loss of local control and the possibility of excessive testing.

Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade schools, dismissed their objections.

"I do not care about the radicalized right or left," he said, adding that when they agree, the "rest of us" should stay away.

Laura Zorc of Florida Parents Against Common Core was one of the few opponents in the room. She said she was "disappointed" in the discussion. She said there's "major concern" about Common Core and "they just ignored it in here."

Much of the emphasis, instead, was on how to sell Common Core to the public. A recent PDK/Gallup poll found that two-thirds of Americans don't know what the standards are.

A few in the group suggested using Common Core but changing its name or removing any reference to it. State Board Chairman Gary Chartrand recommended that reading lists for students be screened to avoid potentially upsetting subjects such as socialism and homosexuality. Later, his group suggested that instructional materials be "aligned with Florida's values and culture."

Some fault lines were apparent Tuesday as the group moved into a discussion of school grades and teacher evaluations. Those topics are on deck today.

During one "team" meeting, Carvalho sparred with Patricia Levesque, executive director of former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future. The two disagreed about how to transition the state's grading formula to the Common Core.

Afterward, in the larger group discussion, State Senator John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, rose when he thought he heard a suggestion to do away with the state's A to F grading system.

"To move away from that at this point in time in the state of Florida would be a very bad idea, in my opinion," he said.

St. Johns County superintendent Joe Joyner said the state needs to be careful when grading schools.

"When we call a school failing, we better be darn sure it's failing," he said.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8846. Follow @Fitz_ly on Twitter.

Comments
USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Holding a piece of computer paper and a microphone, the leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg began a Friday afternoon forum by repeating the USF administration’s new mantra.He reassured the crowd before him that t...
Published: 01/19/18

Crews Lake thespians overcome the odds

SPRING HILL — It’s 8:30 a.m. — "homeroom" period in school speak — when kids in the Crews Lake Middle School drama club file into an empty chorus room to begin rehearsing under the direction of language arts teacher Kristen Sykora. There’s only 25 m...
Published: 01/19/18
Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Friday announced the first in a series of belt-tightening moves that include the elimination of three six-figure positions.Jobs now held by Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes will no longer exis...
Published: 01/19/18
Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

The Florida Department of Health has reported a sharp increase in flu activity in the last several weeks, prompting area schools to send out letters warning parents about the virus. At least two districts, however, say that flu activity in their scho...
Published: 01/19/18

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18
Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

"On Nov. 3, 2017, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 1012 Buena Vista Drive … in reference to a death investigation."So begins a charging document in the case of Andrew Coffey, the 20-year-old Florida State University student who was foun...
Published: 01/18/18
In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In the state capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers breezed through the bullet points of a higher education bill. They skimmed past a hot-button proposal to consolidate the University of South Florida System into a single university without a peep of pushba...
Published: 01/18/18
Lithia Springs Elementary gets kids up with standing desks

Lithia Springs Elementary gets kids up with standing desks

VALRICO — Fifth-grade math teacher Melissa Forsythe walked around her Lithia Springs Elementary School classroom on Tuesday with zeal.She stopped at each station and listened with a big smile on her face as her students told stories about their new s...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

TAMPA — They were hoping to receive between $15 million and $17 million in scheduled pay raises. But the Hillsborough County school district says it can’t afford to give its teachers anywhere near that much, while the teachers say they deserve nothin...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual ...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18