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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
Letter of the Day

The right path to Common Core

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Common Core: Love it, hate it or not sure what to think, it is here. As full implementation approaches, several articles and editorials in the Tribune have recently been written in regard to questions and concerns that center on the new state standards. On three separate instances it has been stated that the Common Core standards focus on problem solving and shifts the emphasis from having "students regurgitate facts." As an elementary teacher in Hillsborough County for the past 21 years, I was surprised, if not a bit insulted, to see over and over again that the standards I have been teaching my students could in any way be compared to "regurgitating facts."

I will admit the Sunshine State Standards that are tested on the FCAT are in some ways different than the Common Core. They also are probably different than those of California and New York. But to give the impression that the current elementary standards in any way emphasize the "regurgitation of facts" is not only incorrect, but a detriment to moving forward with Common Core. In reality, the math standards I have painstakingly taught to more than 400 third- and fourth-graders the last 10 years have strongly emphasized problem solving and higher-order thinking, and spent little time memorizing and repeating facts. The sample FCAT questions that are available on the Department of Education website strongly support this claim.

If we do not clearly understand the strengths and weaknesses of the standards currently tested on the FCAT, then how can we possibly move forward with Common Core in a direction that is in the best interest of all students? While many of Florida's students have done well on the FCAT, unfortunately many have not. According to recently released test data from the 2013 FCAT, 45 percent of Florida's fifth-graders failed to score at least a 3 in math. That number climbs to 48 percent of all sixth-graders tested in math.

We are told the rigor and difficulty of future testing will only increase. Consequently, these numbers could rise to 50 percent or greater. The possibility of having the majority of Florida's fifth- and sixth-graders fail to be proficient in math is most definitely a cause for alarm. That being said, not accurately representing the path that has been traveled up to this point will only be a roadblock and a hindrance to the successful launch of Common Core and the academic success of many Florida students.

Terry Senhauser

Dover

The writer teaches math, science and writing to fourth-graders at Nelson Elementary School in Dover.

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