ORLANDO – Florida Gov. Rick Scott, acknowledging the backlash among some Republicans against new state school standards, said today that steps will be taken to address the criticism that has built up over the last few months.
Scott, who was speaking at the annual meeting of the Republican Party of Florida, said he understood there was a “little bit of passion” surrounding the standards that are known officially as the Common Core State Standards. His remarks came a day after a state party caucus passed a resolution opposing them.
The governor said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will unveil a list next week of proposed changes to the standards. He also said that the Florida Legislature during its spring session would pass a “data security” bill to respond to concerns about what type of information will be collected from students that could be passed on to others.
“These are Florida standards, they are not some national standards,” Scott said. “This is our state. We’re not going to have the federal government telling us how to do our education system.”
Scott’s response still falls short of an outright repeal of the standards that some opponents want. Florida also had no plans to give detailed student data to the federal government, but State Board of Education member John Colon said passing a bill will ensure that there’s no “wiggle room.”
The changes that Stewart plans to the standards are relatively minor. She told state legislators earlier this week that one of them would to be include the teaching of cursive writing in schools.
Scott initially backed Common Core standards, which set uniform benchmarks for reading, writing and math. But in the last few months he refused to take a firm position on Florida’s transition to the new standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
In September, Scott called for public hearings and set the groundwork for the state to pull out of a consortium developing a national test to see if school children are meeting the new standards. The hearings generated harsh criticism of the standards from some parents who called them a plan by federal bureaucrats to assert more control over schools.
Common Core State Standards are a result of an initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Opponents see them as the nationalization of education policy and standards, something they say should be left to the states. The new standards are backed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who helped create the state’s current A-to-F grading system. Supporters contend that having a shared set of standards will allow for a more accurate state-by-state comparison of student performance.
Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, is sponsoring a bill that would halt the state’s implementation of the standards for now. Mayfield praised the governor’s actions, but said he hoped he would eventually agree to opt out of Common Core completely.
“If we have our own standards and if we have our own assessment, then what is the purpose of Common Core?” Mayfield asked.
The standards are already in place in Florida’s early grades, but they are supposed to be expanded to the rest of the grades during the 2014-15 school year.