Saturday, April 21, 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
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18
After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

TAMPA — Sam Sharf’s parents thought he had the best position on the Plant High School football team. As back-up quarterback, he could impress the girls but rarely played enough to get hurt.Now a junior, Sharf is off the team so he can focus his energ...
Published: 04/18/18

Gannon University’s Ruskin growth includes $21 million addition

RUSKIN — Gannon University is experiencing some serious growing pains and as a result, SouthShore is going to see a big change in the landscape. When it opened its doors in 2015 as a satellite campus for its home school in Erie, Pa., Gannon occupied ...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Enrollment growth anticipated for Pasco County charter schools, with two more to open in the fall

Most of Pasco County’s more established charter schools expect to see their student population remain stable in 2018-19.Even so, enrollment in the county’s charter schools is expected to grow by about 1,100 children — or nearly 25 percent — in the fa...
Published: 04/17/18