Academic standards have been used for several decades in Florida. Standards establish the concepts and topics that students are expected to learn in each subject. Unfortunately, our standards have resulted in courses with concepts and topics that are a mile wide, but inch deep, causing our teachers and students to struggle to get through all the material in one school year.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be a significant improvement over the current standards. CCSS stress critical thinking over memorization. They will focus on fewer concepts and topics but at a much deeper conceptual level allowing for higher levels of understanding. That improvement will give teachers more time to teach in-depth the concepts and topics, and will give students the time and opportunity to master them.
The CCSS were developed in 2010 through a voluntary effort by professional educators and education experts from across the United States, including Florida. The initiative was led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The driving force was the realization that too many students were graduating from high school requiring remedial course work in college. That inexcusable situation had to end.
Florida’s State Board of Education voluntarily adopted the CCSS in 2010. They will become fully implemented in Florida in the 2014-15 school year. Local school districts, principals and teachers will retain full control over the curriculum of courses, how teachers teach, and what textbooks and instructional materials are used in the classroom.
The federal government did not write the CCSS nor is it part of the voluntary state group. Its role has been to support the states through the Race to the Top program and by granting waivers from some of the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Contrary to the misinformation tossed around by some vocal critics, there is no mandate from the federal government telling Florida or any state how to write the new standards or what to include in them. Nor, is the federal government coercing the states to adhere to “national curriculum standards.”
There is no national curriculum, nor is the federal government developing or dictating any curriculum. Our local school boards, the unit of government closest to the families and best suited to make decisions affecting the classrooms, will retain their authority over the curriculum.
Our family has school-aged children, attending public and private schools. We owe them, just as Florida owes all its children, a world-class education to prepare them to compete successfully in a highly competitive 21st-century world economy.
The standards are benchmarked to internationally competitive levels in English and math. They are designed to ensure that our students are learning the best standards taught in the world today. By doing so, the new standards will provide our students with an edge in the global jobs market by ensuring mastery of the knowledge, skills, and the critical thinking needed to perform today’s high-skill, high-wage occupations, successfully preparing them for the careers of tomorrow.
New assessments are being developed based on the CCSS. These new assessments will replace, and be a significant improvement over, the current FCAT tests for English and math given today in Florida. Regardless of one’s views on testing and school grades, certainly all Floridians support raising the level of expectations for all our children. CCSS will do just that.
We owe our children the best education in the world. CCSS will serve as the bedrock for that world-class education. It will be an essential step in getting our children ready to compete successfully in the 21st Century world economy.
Roberto “Bob” Martinez, a former U.S. attorney, served as vice chair of the Florida Board of Education.