A California-based think tank has released a review of Florida’s new academic standards that casts the initiative in a much more flattering light than the first outside assessment.
The Independent Institute, a center-right leaning organization, published its 22-page briefing on the Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking just before the three-day holiday weekend. In it, the authors took issue with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s scathing criticism that other states would be wise to look elsewhere if seeking a model to fashion new standards after.
The latest overview calls the math standards “exemplary” and the language arts guidelines “the strongest standard in ELA currently in use in the United States.”
It picks apart many of the critiques raised in the Fordham report. It additionally praises Florida for focusing its attention on what it means to be a learner, rather than simply on what students should learn.
“We commend Florida’s approach, in which the teacher enables literature to bring knowledge — of the human condition and the world — to its students,” the authors wrote. “We believe that the state is unique in supporting this approach with a remarkably coherent vision — and an explicit and sequenced strategy for achieving it. We find this both refreshing and long overdue.”
They also derided the notion that Florida’s math standards focus too heavily on process to the detriment of conceptual understanding, calling that criticism “incomprehensible.”
“What the reader needs to observe is, above all, each standard’s laser-like focus on the stated mathematical topic, without bringing in any extraneous material,” they write. “After each statement, there are almost always a number of examples of problems and applications of the standard that are challenging but doable, followed by Benchmark Clarifications that present the key objectives and proven age- and grade-appropriate limits on the topics that need to be covered.”
They deemed the critique that Florida rushed its work and needed more time as slanderous, further suggesting that the Common Core did no better.
The authors had been Common Core detractors or doubters, much as the Fordham reviewers largely were Common Core backers.
The Florida Board of Education adopted the BEST standards in February, a year after Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the removal of Common Core from the state’s academic expectations. During the rewriting process, large groups of parents and educators said they did not believe the standards needed to be replaced.
The new standards are to be fully implemented by the 2022-23 school year.