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Education

Pasco schools move ahead on Common Core standards

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Published:   |   Updated: August 11, 2013 at 12:41 PM

LAND O' LAKES — Even as more questions are being raised about Common Core State Standards, the Pasco County school district is moving ahead with its implementation plans.

The school board last week approved the promotion of seven people to Common Core specialist positions, including Teacher of the Year Paula Berry from Wiregrass Ranch High School.

Four of the specialists will concentrate on mathematics, while Berry and two others are language arts specialists.

“They will be the resource for the teachers and others who have questions about Common Core or need to be trained,” school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. “They will be the experts.”

Although Common Core has been in the planning stages for a few years, critics only recently have become more outspoken and some would like to see Florida withdraw from the nationwide standards.

Pasco, though, is moving ahead under the assumption that won't happen.

“I don't think they are going to abandon Common Core,” Cobbe said.

She said Superintendent Kurt Browning has kept in communication with local legislators about the issue. While state lawmakers have become skeptical of assessment exams linked to Common Core, they appear to be standing firm on their support of the standards themselves and Pasco is, too.

“We are definitely committed to it,” Cobbe said.

Proponents of Common Core say the goal is to ensure that children receive the best possible education, regardless of where they live in the United States.

Florida has an aggressive timeline for implementing the new academic standards, which initially apply just to math and English classes. They are to be fully in place for all grades, kindergarten through 12th, by the 2014-15 school year.

Traditionally, each state has had its own set of academic standards, and expectations differed. What a student needed to know to graduate from high school in Florida wasn't necessarily the same as what a student needed to know to earn a diploma in Pennsylvania or Wyoming.

So far, 45 states, along with the District of Columbia, have signed on to participate in Common Core. The holdouts are Virginia, Texas, Alaska, Nebraska and Minnesota.

Criticism of Common Core has grown, though, and a few states have started to reconsider their involvement. Even in Florida some lawmakers have called for the state to pull out of participation in a multistate assessment test that would measure how well students perform in meeting the standards.

In a letter last month to former state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, suggested Florida withdraw from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and develop its own assessment.

State Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, who remains a strong proponent of Common Core, issued a statement saying he agreed that the state should move forward with a Florida assessment plan customized to the needs of the state.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida's junior senator in Washington and a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, has been more critical of Common Core and has stated his opposition.

In Pasco, opponents include the Pasco chapter of the Tampa 9/12 group, whose members have raised questions about student data that will be collected. They want to know who will have access to the data and how that information will be used.

They also worry that Common Core takes away local control of education and gives too much control to the federal government.

Proponents of Common Core include President Barack Obama, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

rblair@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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