After spending this year trying to reform his image and become the “Education Governor” by pushing the Legislature to approve money for raises for teachers, Gov. Rick Scott has started to spin in another direction when it comes to the fundamentals of education: high standards.
He now says that he’s considering an executive order to undo work that has taken years to achieve: the Common Core State Standards for subjects and the use of exams created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as PARCC. Mr. Scott told Herald/Times reporters that he believes “PARCC is too expensive and it takes too long” and that he’s concerned about “too much federal involvement.”
Whoa. The Common Core standards already are being used for end of year exams to replace the FCAT. They were developed by Florida educators, backed by the state Board of Education and have the blessing of Florida’s former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who made education standards and accountability a trademark of his eight years in office.
Unfortunately, tea party elements of the Republican Party have twisted Common Core and PARCC into some kind of federal assault on states’ rights, arguing that it’s another federal government “mandate.” Last week, at a Sayfie Review leadership conference in Orlando, one participant suggested that Common Core was a federal ruse, to which AT&T Florida President Marshall Criser III, who has been heavily involved in education initiatives, sought to set the record straight. As he correctly noted, Common Core is about higher education standards devised by the states to ensure Americans can compete in a global economy, not federal mandates.
Yet Gov. Scott, heading into the 2014 election, seems to be backtracking on Common Core to win votes among his core tea party supporters. Instead of flexing his executive muscle and showing the kind of leadership Floridians would expect of one who purports to be an “Education Governor,” Mr. Scott is talking namby-pamby about an executive order to change the hard work that has been done over several years.
Mr. Scott backtracks instead of explaining to those in his party, including the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee that voted against the standards this week, and those elsewhere in Florida who seem to have misunderstood what the standards are, that Common Core standards outline what is expected of students at each grade level in each core subject, like reading and math. They do not — we repeat, not — include suggested books or how teachers should plan their lessons.
The benchmarks were agreed upon after years of study by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. Forty-five states have approved them, and House and Senate leaders in Tallahassee support them.
As Mr. Bush said this week, “The fight about Common Core is political. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have huge swaths of the next generation of Americans that can’t calculate math. They can’t read. Their expectations in their own lives are way too low. And we’re not going to be able to sustain this extraordinarily exceptional country unless we challenge every basic assumption on how we do things. There is a lot of heat right now. But the simple fact is, no one can defend the lower standards that we have across this country.”
And that, Gov. Scott, is at the core of Common Core. Spread the word.