Florida: Common Core 2015 Legislative Update

On March 5th, a standing room only crowd of geographically and politically diverse groups came together in the Capitol Building of the Florida State Legislature for the “March for the Children” to support changes to our system of education spelled out in SB 1496 by Senator Evers and companion bill, HB 1121, by Representative Tobia.

“This bill has been a thoughtful product of education experts researching for years, advised by efforts in other states and national experts on standards and testing.  It is NOT a political, knee- jerk, kick the can down the road, back room deal to appease corporate cronies,” said the Chair of the Florida Citizens Alliance Common Core Issue as she spoke to the crowd.

Senator Evers (R) spoke about the need for education reform in his seamless solution which will increase academic standards, end high stakes testing, increase learning time while reducing testing time, provide excellent accountability through adoption of nationally normed testing, and reduce costs dramatically.  Senator Bullard (D) then spoke and announced he would co-sponsor the bill, highlighting that education is a NON-partisan issue and we all should work together to pass this bill.  There is critical bipartisan recognition that our Florida legislators need to take a comprehensive approach to replacing Common core and its components with a total solution.  Teachers, opt out groups, school boards, parents, and citizens are working together in support of these reforms.

The public has clamored for restoration of local control, ending High Stakes Testing, the end of data mining, reducing the sheer amount of testing, removal of Common Core standards and the end of Federal meddling in education which is unconstitutional and violated three separate federal laws.

The BIG kicker to HB 1121 is that tests will be administered on PAPER, so kids can stay in their own desks.  No more musical chairs causing a huge loss of class time for learning.  No more unfunded mandates from the state causing HUGE sums of money spent on computers for testing and technology for greater bandwidth.   This could save our taxpayers and school districts over $2 Billion by some estimates just for starters.  And what does a 3rd grader know about keyboarding skills?  We don’t need to test keyboarding skills.  We want to know their knowledge level.  “The only ones who gain by computerizing testing are the testing and computer companies who have been ardent proponents of Common Core and high stakes testing,”  Said Kathy Doan, Co-founder of www.StopCommonCoreFL.com.

The timing of the conference was serendipitous as the new Florida State Assessments (FSA)  were scheduled to debut March 2 in schools throughout Florida and it highlighted the enormous problems as it crashed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and a week of education was lost while administrators pointed fingers to Tallahassee in a large “see I told you so” moment.

Miami-Dade County’s School’s Superintendent Alberto Carvalho described the restart of computerized retesting Thursday as a “Massive, catastrophic fail.” While reports were being fed at the same time in the House Education Committee that “all is well and only a few thousand students were delayed.”  He and many other Superintendents have been outspoken about the selection of AIR and about the state’s schools to be ready for this test.

At least 13 of the most populace counties halted the exams and had to deal with the major disruptions and dislocations, eroding confidence already weakened in the new FSA exams which were tested in Utah last year.  In that state, there is movement to eliminate the test created by AIR which is a non-profit company not accustomed to academic testing at all, but which received a contract from the FLDOE for $220,000,000 to create Florida’s test and administer it over 5 years.  There were concerns about the validity of the test and its measure of the students’ knowledge.

After the press conference, attendees broke down into smaller groups and went to their legislators office to urge them to co-sponsor these two companion bills.  Some had driven from as far as West Palm Beach and Naples to register their support.  They were able to convince four legislators to co-sponsor the bills immediately and about 20 more said they were likely to co-sponsor after they read the entire bill (imaging that!).

Many School Board members from around the state will be carrying the same message next week.

UPDATE: This week, the Florida House committee on K-12 Education will vote on their Kick the Can down the road bill which does not solve the problem.  Florida have a live bill in the house and senate that seamlessly solves our education problems.  To read at SB 1496 and HB 1121 go here:  http://public.lobbytools.com/index.cfm?type=bills&id=40316#coms