In a surpising reversal Gov. Rick Scott on Monday ordered the state education department to withdraw from a national consortium creating tests around the new Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards outline what students across the country should know at each grade level, but do not include reading lists or suggested lesson plans. They have been adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia.
The purpose of the new standard is to give a level playing field to assure that parents across the country are comparing apples to apples when comparing school systems in different states. The new benchmarks emphasize critical thinking and analytical skills which has been broadly supported by educators. Conservative political opponents take issue with the federal government making decisions about standards and assessments, arguing that education decisions should be left to state and local governments.
More concerning is the fact that in the past, states have been allowed to create their own tests thereby, dumbing down their standards in order to maintain federal funding. States were allowing failing children to be passed through the system with easy tests to avoid receiving bad school grades which resulted in a loss of federal dollars for the schools. It is a systematic problem that has been avoided for decades only to be made worse by the No Child Left Behind initiative. This common practice has made it very difficult for educators and parents to properly assess a child’s ability and performance if a grade B in Mississippi would actually be a D in Connecticut.
Conservative and Tea Party officials see the new core standards as a reach into state government that is unwarranted. But former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat, noted that “Florida’s education commissioner reports to the Board of Education and not the governor,” Gelber wrote in his blog. “Never mind that the exams were not being developed by the federal government, but rather by states in a voluntary collaboration. Never mind that if Scott gets his way, Florida parents will never know how their kids perform relative to children from other states.”
Critics were also quick to point out that Scott had embraced the PARCC exams as late as August 2012, when he said the assessments would eliminate teaching to the test. It would seem the heavy debates over the summer persuaded Gov. Scott to side with the conservatives in his party.
The reprocussions to Florida’s educational system and reputation could be substantial. It would appear that politics is once again controlling the educational debate in America and, at what cost to the children.