Florida, like every state, has adopted curriculum standards for the schools in the state. These are benchmarks for each grade indicating the core material that is to be covered and mastered.
Recently, the governors of several states and the chief education officers of those states got together and decided that they could develop a shared set of standards in reading/language arts and mathematics. Students moving state to state would no longer be confronted by a completely different set of learning standards and expectations.
The intent was never to tell a state, or school or even teacher how to teach the standards. That is left to state and local leaders. So these standards do not spell out specific materials, activities, textbooks and resources, grading procedures or testing processes. Again, those are left to states and school districts to work out.
These standards were based on some basic principles. First, if the goal is to have 12th grade graduates who are prepared for college or career then the standards should start at the top and work down through the grades. It makes sense to begin with what the final product should look like and then determine the steps needed to get there.
Second, there was a desire to move away from the rote learning and scripted approach that has become so prevalent in this age of high stakes student testing. So there was a greater emphasis on the thinking processes involved in getting a correct answer as a partner to having the right response.
Finally, there was a realization that students were struggling to read and understand the non-fiction reading that was so necessary for success in career or college. So a greater emphasis on reading of factual material was included.
This team effort of numerous state leaders was called the Common Core, meaning a common set of core learnings and skills that all students should have. Initially things moved along smoothly until some people began to question the intentions and processes connected to Common Core.
First, there was a belief that this was a national curriculum being forced on states and districts. That was not the case, but the Federal Department of Education became a supporter of Common Core and that immediately concerned those fearful of national control of education.
Next, states and districts began to talk about how lessons teaching the Common Core would be taught, what materials would be used, what activities would be recommended, and how students, teachers and schools would have their progress evaluated. As they did, people expressed concerns about these paths to implementation.
Unfortunately, folks picked up on some of the more controversial implementation efforts, brought them to national attention and labeled them Common Core, even though they were not. They were efforts to IMPLEMENT Common Core and were not dictated by the Common Core standards. Even more unfortunately, the growing opposition tended to distort and misrepresent the Common Core, turning the very name into something fearful to many.
Florida, which had been on the path to adopting the Common Core standards, quickly decided to establish their own standards, in some ways defeating the very purpose. But in so doing they adopted for Florida schools a set of standards that is in very large part the Common Core with some very minor variations. So, Florida is not a Common Core state, but for all intents and purposes, really is.
How does that affect St. Paul Lutheran School? We have long understood our need to provide our students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed within our school and in any other school to which they move. Therefore, we have always used the standards set for Florida schools as a tool in shaping our school’s curriculum. We are going to continue to do that in the areas of reading/language arts and mathematics, which are areas covered in the Common Core. We will also use Florida standards in planning curriculum in other areas like social studies and science, the fine arts and physical education and so on. In doing so, we will find ways to expand on and push further with the curriculum, both in depth and in width. We will also make clear and conscious effort to make the curriculum at SPLS one that reflects a Christian worldview and the desire for our students to use their learning to make their world a better place.
So what should a parent do if he or she is concerned about the Common Core and the Florida standards that are based on the Common Core? Read them. When parents do this they find there is little, if anything, to find fault with in the standards themselves. In fact, they make a lot of sense and are worthy to pursue.