Florida must push ahead with upgrades in K-12 math despite tears, frustration

Among the arguments made opposing the continued implementation of the Common Core standards in Florida during three public hearings last week, the most publicized were slurs like “Communist Core” and statements that have since been revealed to be outright falsehoods.

But there was another undercurrent that was perhaps most visible at the Tallahassee hearing on Thursday evening – the tears and frustration of both young students and parents with the new standards, particularly in math at the elementary level.  The parents who spoke about this blamed Common Core for their children’s struggles.

There are three points that should be made about this.

First, there have already been plenty of tears and frustration under Florida’s system of state-based standards and the FCAT.  Even if I hadn’t learned about this from the media over the years, I heard about it at the FDOE reactor panel meeting I attended last year – from both a parent and a school board member.

Second, student frustration with math may have much less to do with the Common Core standards themselves and much more with the quality of math teaching at the elementary level, which we already know is often problematic.  It may be that we need to go to a system of math specialists all the way down to kindergarten to provide a more uniform quality of math teaching under the more demanding Common Core.

Third, no matter what you’ve heard Florida is not doing so well in elementary school math achievement.  On the 2011 4th grade math National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment, only 37% of Florida’s students were determined to be “proficient” or better.  The national rate was 40%, and the leading state, Massachusetts, had a proficiency rate of 58%.

Despite the tears and frustration from both students and parents, Florida must push ahead with upgrades to math standards and instruction and must implement a multistate assessment program.

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