Changes to Florida Education Standards | Your South Florida


We’re not going to throw out
the baby with the bath water. We’re going to try and achieve the best standards for Florida. – We want them to really
listen to educators, to listen to the needs of students, and to listen to the parents, too. And they’ve said, hey, we
don’t need new standards. – [Pam] As a new school
year gets ready to start, the replacement of Florida’s controversial Common Core education
standards is underway. We look at what the new
curriculum could mean for students and why many teachers and
parents aren’t convinced this is the right approach. That and more, stay with us as we dive into Your South Florida. (upbeat music) Hello and welcome, I’m Pam Giganti, thank you so much for joining us. And welcome to the premiere episode of the new Your South Florida, where we choose one
important topic each month that’s having an impact
on our local communities. We’ll dive deep into that issue, talk to the experts, and hopefully
find some real solutions. This month, we’re taking
a look at the state of education in Florida,
as teachers, parents, and students prepare for the
start of a new school year, big changes are on the
horizon for public schools throughout the state. Soon after taking office, Governor Ron DeSantis followed through on a campaign promise to
eliminate Common Core, known as the Florida Standards. These guidelines for the English and math curriculum were
adopted nearly years ago and were designed to better
prepare students for college. It also led to the creation
of the controversial exam, the Florida Standards Assessment, or FSA. But many parents and teachers complained that educators were simply
teaching to the test. Other concerns included
what some called new math and the complexity of
what has been required at different grade levels. All areas that will be looked at during the crafting of
these new standards. But before we can get a clearer picture of what these new guidelines could mean for public education in our state, let’s take a closer look at
how Common Core came to be in Florida and why it has some divided. In , the Council of
Chief State School Officers and the National Governors
Association began to develop Common Core to
unify education standards nationwide with input from
teachers, parents, and experts. That same year, then
President Obama launched Race to the Top, a more than
$ billion grant program to foster new ideas in education with funds from the federal
economic stimulus package. In , officials released
the Common Core guidelines, which were then adopted by
states including Florida. This was also the year Florida
was awarded $ million from the Race to the Top program. The funds would be part of
the states four year plan, developing a new system
to evaluate teacher and principal performance, a program to improve classroom instruction, and school and district wide performance, and also the implementation
of Common Core. The following year, in , then Governor Rick Scott
signed the controversial teacher merit-pay into law,
which tied teacher evaluations to student performance and test results, and removed some job protections. Then, in , the state
changed Common Core to what we now know as
The Florida Standards. And this brings us to today, where education experts
are working once again to change the standards, trying to meet Governor
Ron DeSantis’s goal of rolling it out during
the following school year. We sat down with educators
on the forefront of crafting and implementing the new curriculum, and the challenges they face. When it comes to knowing
what works in a classroom, Dr. Joyce Fine is on the front lines. – Common Core really never
told people how to teach, they just said what needed to be done. It was a little bit of a
change from other standards. Now, what we’re going
to be doing is looking at how we can change
things and give resources and ways to help teachers
be able to teach better. – [Pam] And Dr. Fine
knows that all too well. As an associate professor
and reading program director in the Department of Teaching and Learning at FIU’s School of Education
and Human Development, she teaches the teachers of the future. She’s also been selected by the governor to be part of a standards review team, working to create a new curriculum for K through five English Language Arts. Guidelines he wants in
place by January of . – They have broken up
the standards into parts and asked experts on those parts to look very closely at them and then they, we met to
reach some kind of consensus. And now, we have Phase
Two starting shortly. And that’s going to
involve everybody looking at all the Language Arts standards. I was just part of the Language Arts one. – So you do think it’s possible to have something in place in January? – Yes, I do. – And then how do we get teachers
up to speed on what these, is it lessons, is it curriculum? What do we need to do to get them prepared and ready to teach this material? – Well there will be professional
development, I’m sure. And we will be explaining in each of the counties
exactly what’s involved. And I’m sure teachers will
welcome what the change is and being able to handle it. – We’ve seen how this has
really turned into a priority of teaching to a test as
opposed to educating a child. – [Pam] Karla Hernandez-Mats
understands the stress of preparing students for exams. She’s a middle school special
education science teacher. She’s also the president of
the United Teachers of Dade, the largest local union
of educators in Florida. She advocates for education
policy at the local, state, and national level. While supportive of having
a standard curriculum and less testing,
Hernandez-Mats says educators, not politicians, need to have more say when it comes to making changes. – We’ve been talking about
standards for a very long time. We’ve been talking about the impact that it has on communities. We’ve been talking about how
testing impacts children. And so, you know, we’re, it
doesn’t sit well with us. It doesn’t sit well with
us when we see politicians that don’t have education background try to implement their
philosophies and to what end? And that’s the question. – [Pam] The Florida Department
of Education is asking for feedback on changes
from educators, parents, and the general public to
make the process transparent, giving vital feedback
on specific benchmarks and insight into what’s
working and what’s not. Palm Beach Schools Assistant
Superintendent Diana Fedderman sees this as a critical step in creating these new standards. – Honestly, one of the
very first standards that the DOE learned, and all
of us learned the first time when we went from Common
Core to Florida Standards, was just the importance of
listening to our stakeholders, and I think that’s something
that maybe didn’t happen that very first time, and that’s critical. Our parents know our students. Our teachers know our students. So many state of the community
groups know our students. It’s important that we
really listen to everybody and take in that feedback. – [Pam] The latest feedback collected from the Florida Department of Education reveals the vast majority
of those surveyed do not feel changes are needed, leading UTD President Hernandez-Mats to question why the state is continuing to go through with replacing the standards in the first place. – When we see that they
changed the standards, which means that now they
have to change the books, which means that now that there is big, for-profit book companies
that are gonna make millions of dollars, tax-payer dollars, on creating these new books
that now educators have to spend time to understand and learn so that we
can teach our students. What we see is a continual
goalpost changing. Why? Because we’re doing good. So if we’re doing good, they gotta change it
so that we can do bad. – If a number of these people who are experts don’t
think a lot of things should be changed, then
what is the approach? Are you enhancing the program? – There are basics that
have to be involved, and so we’re not going throw out the baby with the bathwater, we’re
going to keep everything that has to be there
and we’re going to try and achieve the best
standards for Florida. – [Karla] At the end of the day, we want equity for every child, for every neighborhood, for every teacher, and that’s not what we’re seeing, and that’s not the
support that we’re seeing. So we want them to really
listen to educators, to listen to the needs of students, and to listen to the parents too. And they’ve said, hey, we
don’t need new standards. – There was not much of a need for change in the area of literacy,
but from what we’ve heard, there’s been more feedback around the area of mathematics, especially elementary mathematics. That more parents felt that
there needed to be a change, an adjustment made, so it
depended on which subject area or which grade level. It’s not change for change sake. It’s making the changes
that need to be made to improve the education for our students. – [Pam] One of those changes
may include teaching students who learned English as a second language. – These are students
that have unique needs. And we need not only
teachers that are trained that know how to deal
with their uniqueness, but we also need to have a system that really embraces
them too and understands that they are part of the system, that they are part of the
children that we teach, and that our children are not widgets and they don’t all come in
the same size, standard, and that therefore, these
standards are not gonna work the same for every single child. – We’re very lucky in Florida
because we have a population that is really our lab. And we learn that we teach teachers how to teach children who
are second language learners. We have several programs where we look at how we can teach the same
content but at different levels. So we learn that there are ways to help children feel engaged. – [Pam] Another issue
concerning teachers is one that affects their wallets. Separate legislation passed in by then Governor Rick
Scott ties teacher bonuses or merit-based pay to how
well their students perform on the Florida Standards
Assessment test or FSA, but many educators say
this is the wrong approach. – It puts a teacher at a disadvantage and it also puts the
school at a disadvantage because then teachers
want to change schools and the schools have to
replace those teachers and they may not get
as experienced teachers as they would have if they
weren’t basing their pay on how the children achieve. – We want our children to succeed and because of that, and
because we do this work on a daily basis, we
believe that all educators, whether they’re in South Florida or in another state,
every educator deserves to have better pay and merit
pay is not gonna take us there. We need to value the education workforce and the things that they do for our community on a daily basis. – So how do you attract and
keep qualified, good people and teachers in the classroom? How do we overcome this issue? – Well, that’s a big challenge, and I think that it’s
something we need to face and that is that we need to
raise the pay for teachers. Many of them pay for materials themselves, so we need to fund education and we need to do it at different levels so that they have the materials they need and the technology they need and teachers have a living wage. – [Pam] In , voters
in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties
overwhelmingly approved referendums to raise teacher pay
as well as tax dollars for increased school security, but this fix is only temporary. – This is our community saying we believe in public education. We believe that there
needs to be better funding and so they tax themselves so
that we can get better pay. – We have to think on a grander scale. We have to think about policy. And policy starts,
naturally at the state level and the national level, too. To recognize how important
it is to have education and have it funded properly. – So with Florida changing its standards and the governor wanting
us to have this high level of education, I don’t know if creating a problem is
the right way to put it, but do you see other states following? What do you see happening
maybe perhaps nationwide? – Generally, education follows society. It parallels society and this change to make our state standards fit our state I think is going to follow
suit across other places. I think there are other states that are considering
changing at this moment. So I think there will be a
movement in that direction. – [Karla] You know, we
really hope that everyone that’s involved in these changes, that they’ll truly listen to educators, that they’ll hear our voices. We are on the front lines of education. We know what our students’ needs are. We know the circumstances of
different neighborhoods as well and I think that a lot
of times these standards, or ideas come with good intentions, bad execution and negative impacts. – My hope is that we do achieve what the governor said he
wanted and that is to have them as outstanding standards
in the whole country. But really, we can serve as a model because of our process and our inclusion of the public and so I hope to
achieve that kind of quality and that’s what we want in this
state and our country, too. – And joining me now to
continue the conversation on the changes to the Florida Standards and merit-based teacher
pay is Dr. Sue Woltanski, a Monroe County School Board member, representing District Five, and Maria Norton, a parent and teacher. Maria is also the South Region Coordinator for Miami-Dade County
Council PTA and PTSA. Ladies, thank you so
much for being with us. Really appreciate it. – Thank you for having us. – All right, Dr. Sue,
let me start with you. What are your thoughts
after watching all of that and hearing kind of both
sides of what’s happening. We heard from Dr. Fine
who’s on one of the teams to kind of come up with
some of these new standards for English Language
Arts and then you heard from Karla Hernandez-Mats from UTD saying, why do we need to change
this in the first place? – Well, I think that there’s no reason not to have high standards. High standards are good. The problem in, well as Governor DeSantis, you know one of the reasons he wanted to get rid of Common Core
had to do with the amount of testing and the
complaints about over-testing and I’m not convinced that just changing the standards
will decrease the amount of testing in the classrooms, and that’s my biggest concern
is the way the tests are used and how that testing
impacts the classroom. – Yeah, and that’s really been a big part of this whole conversation. That’s what the governor said he heard when he was out on the campaign trail. Maria, I wanna talk to you. You deal a lot with parents as being the head of the South Region for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, for you deal with the
teachers with the PTA, I’m sorry, and with parents, especially. So what are parents saying to you? What are some of their concerns? What’s their beef with
the Florida Standards? – I believe their biggest
beef is the testing. I don’t think parents really know much about that’s what standards are measuring. They equate standards with the testing. And PTA believes in high standards, at developmentally appropriate levels. But the parents see
high standards testing. And they’re both different. And I think that’s where the frustration and the uncomfortableness
comes from parents. That they equate the third-grade retention with the standards as opposed to the third-grade retention happens because of the testing, not because of the high-quality standards. – Right, so there’s a pressure there on these young third grade students to pass this exam or
they will be held back. Yeah, so kind of walk us
through your experience, too, because you’ve dealt with
the school system in Hawaii, you taught in Hawaii, right? Or your students, your child went through the school in Hawaii, and in Virginia, and then you moved to Florida. – [Maria] Yes. – So you’ve got some good
areas there to kind of compare, so kinda walk us through the comparisons. – You know, the ideal of the
standards across the nations was appealing when I found out about it because my experience was my oldest son started kindergarten in Hawaii. If we were to parallel it to how Dade County does kindergarten, it would be more like our
pre-K in Dade County Schools for instance, or any most. And then we moved after
kindergarten to Hawaii. When he got to Hawaii, he
was expected at that time to already be writing complete sentences, that they were not doing that
in the state at that time. He was supposed to be
writing not regular print, but D’Nealian, I didn’t even
know what D’Nealian was. – Is that like cursive? – It leads into cursive. – Okay. – It’s all those cute little letters that have the curls on the end. So I actually, he came home one day and he was struggling
writing and I’m like, just write normal, and he went
back to school the next day and told the teacher, my mom says I cannot write D’Nealian. So the teacher said Ms. Norton, your son said he cannot write D’Nealian, and I was like, what is that? I had never heard of it. So had we had the same standards across every other school systems, maybe it would’ve been
easier transition for him. Then we moved to Florida– – [Pam] From Virginia? – From Virginia. Luckily for him, because he struggles on high-stakes testing, we
came at the end of third grade. So he had already done third grade and he came in fourth grade. In the state at that time, if you did not get the high
scores on their equivalent to our FSA, what would happen is you just retook it in fourth grade. Remediate your skills and retake it. You wouldn’t be retained. – [Pam] But not holding you back? – Correct, there was no retention. So when we came here, had
he been here in third grade, maybe he would have been retained because he would have
missed out three years of different standards across states. So the comparison of having most states have similar standards. Of course they’re not gonna
use the same curriculums, but same standards. – [Pam] It would’ve been more on par is what you’re saying? – Yes, it would have been. – Doctor, let’s talk then about this whole issue with testing. That really seems to be at
the crux of the problem here. Everybody can talk about curriculum and making sure students
are reaching benchmarks at a certain grade level, and I think most people agree, there needs to obviously be some testing so that we know that students
are reaching a certain level, but the problem here is too much tied to the results of the testing. That’s what I’m hearing
you saying, correct? – [Sue] The problem is not the testing, but it’s the way the test scores are used. So when we were in school
we took a standardized test, they might call our parents in, talk about what we were good at, what we’re not so good at. The school itself would look and say, oh look, all our kids, they
do really well with fractions, but they don’t get decimals. We’re gonna have to beef up
the way we teach decimals. That’s not how they use test scores now. Test scores are used to rate
the schools, fund the schools. If a school is doing
poorly in test scores, they might be closed or
converted to a private option. We rate teachers. Teachers’ contracts can be discontinued if the scores aren’t good enough. They are for grade retention. Whether you graduate high school. The test score holds so much weight. And then if you believe people, it also affects your property values because the test scores are used to calculate the school grades. And when you use it in
so many different ways, the test has now taken on new meaning and when you reward or punish based on a test score, well, people and systems are
gonna do whatever they can to get over those test scores. And that, I believe, is why parents think there’s so much emphasis on testing. Why the first day you go back to school, the teacher tells you about the
test at the end of the year. They have kids track their own data. Everything is focused on– – [Pam] They’re getting tutored. – Right, and the curriculum is narrowing to the point that the kids are tested in Language Arts and Math, so they’re mostly taught Language Arts and Math with a little bit of science. And I don’t think anyone believes–
– [Pam] Less history, civics– – Right, art, music, all the things that make us–
– [Pam] Make you a well-rounded person. – Culturally human. – Talk too, as well about
the teacher merit-based pay, which is also tied to the testing. Talk about the problems that
you’re hearing with that. – So when Common Core came into the state, it came at the same time
as the teacher merit pay and the annual contract. And that wasn’t a coincidence because those were requirements to get the Race to the Top money. So we got a lot of money. That money has all been spent, but we are still suffering
from the policies that were put into place
in order to get that money. Teachers know that if
their kids don’t perform they can lose their contract. And they’re only,
districts are only allowed to offer a one, an annual contract and in low-performing schools, the state itself will tell districts that they have to move teachers whose students got low-performing scores and bring high-performing teachers with high scores possibly
from a higher demographic in to teach those kids. It just, the entire system
gets corrupted by the idea that you need to jump over this bar. I like to say, you know the
state gives you lots of hoops to jump through and so now everyone just practices hoop jumping. – Right, well and you have blog too, and you call it Accountabaloney Talk a little bit about that. Is that all tied in to that? The legislators really
being the ones kind of, as moving the goalposts
as Karla was saying? – Yeah, it’s perhaps that,
or it’s also the suggestion that the output of a good education can be in a few standardized test scores and so therefore we need to reward and punish everyone based on those scores. And I don’t think if anyone were to think, you know let’s imagine
a well-educated person. They don’t think someone who can take, do really well on tests. It’s more than that and
by focusing so much, so accountabaloney is using
an accountability system based on a false measure, which
is these standardized tests, which makes us feel like
our money is being spent accountably, but that’s really
you know, accountabaloney. – Maria, talk a little bit, again we’re running out of time, but about what the, your focus is going to be going forward with now
these new standards coming out. How do you talk to parents about what their expectations should be and how to kind of handle this change? – It’s interesting question. The change is, could be a little scary because they’ve been doing so many different things up to now. The PTA does support the high standards, high-quality education
for all of our students. We’re just gonna have to, I think, sit back and wait and hope for the best. Hopefully the Tallahassee, our government will
have teachers, parents, even students at the higher
high school levels included in the coming out with the new standards or revising the standards. Whatever it is that they
may be going to be doing. – Ladies, thank you so
much for being here. We really appreciate your input. It’s a complicated issue, isn’t it? – There’s many parts. – A lot of moving parts. We thank you so much. We really appreciate you
being here with us today. And thank you so much for
joining us this month. We hope you’ll join us again in September, but before we go, we
would like to leave you with some words of hope and encouragement from two South Florida teachers. We’ll see you again next time. Take care. (pleasant music) – It is my passion to teach, to see the students learns and grow. It is my passion to do that. – [Vanessa] I teach because
there’s no other profession in the world that would reach out to so many children. There’s no other profession
that can build someone up to thinking and believing in themselves and knowing that they can. – [Al] In the past years,
what I have found is really, really rewarding for me is
when you hear parents coming to you, telling you Mr. Lawrence, my daughter is different now. Or my son is different. They don’t wanna miss school. They wanna be here every single day. They wish to have school on the weekends because they wanna come see you. They wanna be in the classroom. That’s really rewarding to hear. – [Vanessa] My advice to
those contemplating teaching or within the profession even is, if you don’t love it, don’t do it. You’re not only putting
yourself at a disservice, but you’re putting all those
kids at a disadvantage. All those kids need somebody
who’s truly, fully vested into their profession and
truly love the art of teaching. (upbeat music)

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