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Florida has new school standards. Did it dump the Common Core?

Gov. Ron DeSantis called for changes soon after taking office.
Chancellor Jacob Oliva explains recommended new academic standards in language arts and math to the Florida Board of Education at a Feb. 12, 2020, meeting in Tallahassee. The board unanimously adopted the proposal. [Florida Department of Education]
Chancellor Jacob Oliva explains recommended new academic standards in language arts and math to the Florida Board of Education at a Feb. 12, 2020, meeting in Tallahassee. The board unanimously adopted the proposal. [Florida Department of Education]
Published Feb. 12
Updated Feb. 12

As expected, the Florida Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously replaced the state’s expectations for language arts and math with new ones that Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted as eliminating the Common Core.

The change had been a DeSantis campaign promise, and he issued an executive order soon after taking office to make it so.

Related: Fifth time in 24 years. Why Florida is changing school standards, again

Before the vote, though, some board members had some concerns that the changes were not as monumental as advertised.

Board member Michael Olenick noted social media chatter that suggested the new standards, called Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST), were substantively not that different.

“Could you just answer that question whether or not this is Common Core Phase 2?” Olenick asked K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva, who presented the standards to the board.

Oliva acknowledged that some lessons would certainly transfer from one set of standards to the next. Kindergartners learn the alphabet, he said, and third graders begin to learn multiplication.

But when it comes to how the information is presented, and how the material progresses from year to year, among other things, the standards are very different, Oliva said.

“It’s not the same in any way,” commissioner Richard Corcoran chimed in. “It’s a complete eradication.”

Shortly after the conversation took place, critics took to social media to suggest that the standards in many ways are merely reshuffling the same deck.

But in the meeting room, criticism was harder to find.

A representative from the Florida PTA praised the effort, calling the methods to get there “simply the best.” Kathleen Oropeza of Fund Education Now, a group that has fought the state’s education system, offered muted disapproval, noting that many people loved the Common Core until they saw how it was implemented.

She called on the board to pause the accountability testing system during the transition, and urged the Department of Education to continue collecting feedback to ensure the standards are improved as needed.

Superintendents from Leon and Wakulla counties both offered strong support.

Concerns about implementation were the biggest issue for board members. Vice chairwoman Marva Johnson said it is critical to ensure that parents and educators alike are well prepared to use the standards.

Board member Ryan Petty, attending his first session, added that it’s important for the state to fully fund training on the standards. He noted the House has $2.7 million in its budget to accomplish this task, but the Senate has nothing in its budget, and offered to lobby for funding.

Oliva noted that the rollout of the standards will take three years. That will include time to adopt new course descriptions, seek revised instructional materials and align state tests to the new expectations.

Board members said they were pleased with the standards, which they deemed a ‘big deal.’ They liked everything from the more approachable math and the inclusion of civics, to the name BEST.

They expect to begin reviewing updated course descriptions as early as next month.


  1. Chicken and vegetable dumplings with soy sauce were offered to students to test during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste-testing, Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at Pinellas Technical College. Twenty-eight new food items were tested and rated.  Some will be added to next year's school menus.
  2. Patrick Suiters, 10, left, and Gabriel Stanford, 9, both fourth-graders at San Jose Elementary School in Dunedin, fill out a survey after tasting falafel tots and nuggets during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste test at Pinellas Technical College. About 120 students tasted and rated 28 new food items that could be added to school breakfast and lunch menus next year.
  3. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
  4. The Pinellas County school system is offering driver education camps to hundreds of students like this one over the summer. The program will be held over two sessions at nine high school campuses across the county.
  5. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020.
  6. Incoming Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis (center), School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) and the other board members pose as Davis signs his contract with the district on Tuesday night. The board unanimously approved the contract beforehand.
  7. Jarvis Delon West was arrested on child neglect charges after he didn't report an employee at AMI Kids who slammed a boy to the ground, according to police.
  8. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  9. Prekindergarten students at James B. Sanderlin IB World School in St. Petersburg, show the peace sign during an assembly in 2012. New state data show children in prekindergarten are better prepared for kindergarten than those who don't attend.
  10. Leon County fifth-grader Ingrid Hanley asks the Senate Education Committee not to adopt legislation that would get tougher on D-rated schools, during a Feb. 17, 2020, session.
  11. Nadia King, 6, is smiles for a photo. The special-needs student was taken from school Feb. 4 and placed in a mental health facility under Florida's Baker Act, and now her mother and a team of attorneys are asking why.
  12. The Voluntary Prekindergarten room is one feature of the new Bardmoor Branch of the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. The location also includes a child-care center and Preschool Academy.