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DeSantis takes aim at Common Core in executive order

It’s Gov. DeSantis' second education announcement in two days.
TAILYR IRVINE | Times Ron DeSantis announces plans to invest in Florida workforce programs at Tampa Bay Technical High School on Jan. 30, 2019 in Tampa, FL. DeSantis says he wants to take Florida from 24th in the nation to first in workforce preparation.
Published Jan. 31
Updated Jan. 31

Florida must do away with “the vestiges of Common Core,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday, referring to the public school curriculum standards the state adopted nearly nine years ago.

"We stuck with Common Core then we re-branded it … it’s all the same. It all needs to be looked at, it all needs to be scrutinized,” the governor said during an announcement at Ida S. Baker High School in Cape Coral, flanked by commissioner of education Richard Corcoran and local school administrators.

DeSantis announced an executive order asking Corcoran to spend a year creating new state curriculum standards, which would then be presented to the Legislature for the 2020 session.

Common Core is a set of standards that sets goals for what K-12 students should learn in language arts and math by the end of each grade level. They were designed to be more rigorous than what many states previously had in place and were adopted by Florida in 2010 as part of a national effort to boost American standards for education after the U.S. was falling behind other countries.

Today, Florida’s standards are similar to Common Core but not identical. State officials, urged on by conservative groups, tweaked and renamed them in 2014. Despite criticism by some that Common Core is a federal mandate, the standards were developed by private nonprofit groups and state education departments and then adopted by 45 states. Local districts then altered their lesson plans to meet those standards.

READ MORE: PolitiFact: Distortions on Common Core

But DeSantis said Common Core inspired concerns by parents who felt they were “imposed federally.”

“Also, you would have situations where the parents did not like some of the curriculum, I mean they had trouble even doing basic math to help their kids,” he said. “With Common Core a lot of people just didn’t feel like anyone was listening to them and I think that’s a big, big problem.”

This is far from the first time Florida’s leaders have considered a reboot to its standards. Schools began phasing in Common Core in 2011-12. In 2013, Gov. Rick Scott called for public hearings to hear out complaints about the standards and also pulled out of some of the testing developed by national groups to support Common Core.

But state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, said this time is different, because it appears DeSantis is looking for a thoughtful overhaul to present to the Legislature rather than some of the smaller, but rapid, changes of the past. Scott’s changes to testing in 2014, for example, left the state “scrambling” for a new test, Diaz said.

“I appreciate the pragmatic approach of having a year ramp-up and then come back with recommendations, as opposed to last time we had to do the change of the test and ... we had to rush into it. You never have great product when you do that,” he said.

Miami-Dade school superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he supports the review and is encouraged by DeSantis' comments that the new standards could lead to a reduction of high-stakes testing.

“I applaud the governor’s decision to bring about a significant review and analysis of current standards, which are very, very identical to Common Core,” he said. “My hope is it considers the voice of teachers and practitioners of education, secondly that it is done transparently with the opinion and witnessed by parents.”

The Florida Education Association, the state teacher’s union, released a statement from its president, Fedrick Ingram, who expressed similar sentiment, saying that “a deliberate look at what students must know is always appropriate.”

DeSantis also said the new standards, which Corcoran will work to craft as long as the state Board of Education is in agreement, should make civics education even more of a “central part” of what students learn so they can “discharge the duties of citizenship." Civics education and learning the Constitution was one of DeSantis' common refrains on the campaign trail, even though students already are required to receive instruction on those subjects.

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis and others want to put the Constitution ‘back’ in Florida schools. It’s already there.

This was DeSantis' second education policy announcement in two days, after he made a stop in Tampa on Wednesday to propose beefing up Florida’s vocational training programs.

Miami Herald staff writer Colleen Wright contributed to this report.

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