It’s hard to imagine the state’s governance of public education could get any more chaotic.
But leave it to Gov. Rick Scott to find a way.
His ham-handed intrusion into the implementation of Common Core State Standards, three years after their adoption in Florida, has cast a shadow over the progress already made.
The governor can claim he’s concerned by a perceived federal intrusion into the state’s business, but his sudden turn against the test needed to make the Common Core standards meaningful reeks of a blatant effort to appease a portion of his conservative base. So does the state Board of Education’s decision last week to back away from requiring districts to use the reading and writing samples associated with the standards.
For the good of education in the state, Scott should drop efforts to gut Common Core and instead listen to educators working in the schools.
Backing away from Common Core would be another setback for public education under Scott. He’s on his fourth education commissioner in three years, the state’s chancellor over higher education left for a job in a smaller state, and the school’s accountability grading system is no longer a respectable standard.
In a column last week on these pages, Hillsborough Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia made a cogent case for implementing Common Core.
She should know. Her district has been working with the standards for two years now.
As Jeb Bush said this week on the MSNBC cable news network, Common Core does not signal a federal takeover of the state’s education system, as its critics claim. The standards were developed by the National Governors Association and have been adopted by 45 states. They are meant to prepare students for college and careers, and to provide a way for states to compare their performance with other states and with other countries. They emphasize student engagement over rote memorization.
Scott seemed fine with the standards until the noise from the far right grabbed his attention as he prepares for a re-election run. Now the state is abandoning the standardized test associated with Common Core, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and instructing state officials to find a company that can create a test specific to Florida. That sounds eerily like a return to something along the lines of the failed FCAT. It also begs the question: If Florida is using a test different from tests given in other states and countries, how can the results be compared in any meaningful way?
In a report last week, the nonprofit Florida TaxWatch cautioned the state to adopt a test that is compatible with tests used elsewhere.
As he seeks re-election, Scott is trying to burnish a reputation as an education governor. After stripping billions from education his first two years in office, he has returned some of that money and rewarded teachers with long-overdue raises. But policy matters just as much as money, if not more.
Where Common Core is concerned, his policy appears guided by a wing of his political base that fears a conspiracy behind every program that has some federal involvement.
If he really wants to be an education governor, he needs to stand up to those forces and do what’s in the best interest of the state. Rather than sabotage Common Core, he should encourage its implementation.