Hillsborough County school board members have plenty of questions when it comes to Common Core, the new set of educational standards poised to change the way students learn in Florida.
They’re worried about how students who struggle with English will adapt to the switch.
They are concerned about those in schools in poor neighborhoods.
And at least one board member questions whether it’s the right thing for the state to be doing.
The questions surfaced at a workshop Tuesday morning where school board members gathered for an informational session on Common Core, which will go fully into effect in Florida in the 2014-15 school year.
“We’re almost there,” board member Cindy Stuart said. “But I have concerns about how we are going to get there.”
There are teachers to train. There are parents to educate. And there are students to teach a new way of learning.
Some classes, such as kindergarten and first grade, already are being taught with the different focus. For students, it will be less about regurgitating memorized information and more about helping students figure out ways to analyze and solve problems and develop skills that will make them more prepared for college and careers.
The new set of standards will allow Florida to compare itself to other states and countries.
“This is a different way of teaching. This is a different way of learning,” said Stuart. “If you’re already behind in math and language arts, how are you going to catch up?”
Board member Doretha Edgecomb said she worries about struggling readers, about youngsters who come to school less equipped than others.
“I’ve got a thousand other questions,” she said.
“Everybody isn’t starting on the same playing field,” Edgecomb added. “Every school does not look alike. Teachers are all across the spectrum. It’s not that I don’t think we can get there. We don’t have a choice but to get there.”
Board members say they are hearing plenty of negative feedback from parents in the community about Common Core.
“It’s coming at us in an attacking type way,” said chairwoman April Griffin.
Board member Stacy White pointed out that not all states – only 45 – have bought into the new set of standards. He wanted to know if more states distanced themselves from Common Core, what Florida might do.
He told district officials he would have preferred a more in-depth analysis of what the transition will mean.
“This did feel a little bit like a cheerleading session,” White said.
District officials promised to get back with board members on their many questions.
“This has to be an ongoing conversation. This is an ongoing issue,” said Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. “Everything isn’t a perfect world here.”