Pivotal time for the Common Core at ground zero for K-12 reform

This is a big week for the Common Core in Florida, which has been ground zero for K-12 education reform in the US for fifteen years.  Governor Scott has called for three public hearings on Common Core to be held around the state this week.  The first is in Tampa today, and it will be followed by hearings in Davie tomorrow and Tallahassee on Thursday.

The hearings have already been controversial – the Common Core opposition has criticized the format of the hearings, which seems to be in flux, anyway.  A demonstration by the opposition is scheduled to be held in Tampa this afternoon just before the beginning of the first hearing.

The hearings are part of an effort by politicians to try to avoid direct hits from the boisterous Common Core opposition led by Florida Parents Against Common Core.  Nominally, this opposition group objects to what they see as a federal takeover of K-12 education, the violation of the privacy of their children and overtesting.  Another group, Floridians Against Common Core Education is somewhat less rational, citing “brainwashing” and Marxist philosophers.

There has already been considerable backing-off from the plan for Florida to participate in the PARCC multistate assessment consortium, which would have allowed a head-to-head comparison of Florida’s K-12 students with students from more than twenty other states.  Governor Scott pulled Florida back from its leadership role in the consortium and insisted that the state’s K-12 leadership reopen the question of how to assess student achievement.  The most visible alternative at the moment is the homegrown and isolationist Florida Plan advocated by the President of the State Senate and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.  That plan is driven by a concern that Florida’s parents and voters would be unhappy to learn that student achievement in Florida is still subpar, despite the improvements of the last fifteen years.

The political leaders are, of course, right to be concerned.  The recent uproar in New York State gives an example of parents’ responses when they are told en masse that their kids just can’t cut it on the Common Core playing field.

I argued in a recent Tallahassee Democrat op-ed that there is no reasonable alternative to Common Core and multistate assessments if our kids are to compete successfully in the new economy.  I also suggested that perhaps just under the surface of the debate are parents’ concerns – well-founded – that their own children would struggle when measured against the competition from Singapore, Finland and even Massachusetts.  If you are a parent, you know how powerful that angst can be.  But it’s an angst that we have to overcome for the sake of our kids.

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