On Wednesday of last week, State Representative Debbie Mayfield, from Vero Beach of Indian River County, introduced a Bill in the House which would “pause” the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) until two requirements are met. Read the bill here.
The first requirement calls for the Board of Education to hold public hearings in each congressional district of the State. This requirement is an attempt to restore the public’s confidence in our political system, as many parents and opponents of the CCSS have correctly pointed out that the CCSS were implemented as a result of a stealth campaign since parents and educators did not have an opportunity to participate in their review and adoption. Parents, who are the keepers of their children, should have a say in their children’s education.
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Further, just because the word “public” is a part of “public education,” does not mean that public education is “free” nor “provided by the government,” as parents, through their taxes, finance their children’s “public” education; parents are the stakeholders and they should be at the forefront of the decision-making process. Parents who are interested in becoming educated on what the CCSS entails should read Florida’s Common Core Standards Policy Analysis here.
Next, the Bill requires the Board to hire an independent organization to assess the costs involved with the implementation of the CCSS. The State of Washington recently conducted a similar study and it estimates that over a five year period it would cost the state over $182 million dollars to implement the CCSS. Read the study here and see pages 24 and 29. The Pioneer Institute also conducted a study to assess the costs of implementation, and in a conservative estimate, it calculates that Florida will spend over $1 billion implementing the CCSS. Read the Pioneer Institute Public Policy Research Paper here.
Even if money was not an issue for the already cash strapped State of Florida, which has not provided adequate raises to its teachers for approximately seven years, there is the issue of whether the CCSS are superior to the current standards in Florida, known as the Sunshine State Standards (SSS). But, the SSS are deemed to be comparable to the CCSS.
In comparative study conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, cited frequently by proponents of the CCSS, the SSS for English earned a B, whereas the English CCSS earned a B+. Keep reading. The SSS for Math earned an A, whereas the Math CCSS earned an A-. This means that the “+” gained by the English Standards is cancelled out by the “-” awarded to the Math Standards. Read the Thomas B. Fordham Institute Report here.
After a cost-benefit analysis in which the costs of the implementation of the CCSS is juxtaposed with the educational benefits that are to derived from them, it is clear that its costs of implementation are neither warranted nor justifiable in light of the educational benefits that can be derived from the CCSS.
Adopting and Implementing New Assessments
The Bill also requires that the State of Florida withdraw from the Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College and Careers and further prohibits the State from requiring assessments that are aligned to the CCSS. This notwithstanding, the Bill does require that the State “adopt and implement new assessments.” Whereas the first objective is commendable, the latter is troubling and should be approached with caution.
Withdrawal from PARCC is to be welcomed for many reasons, and a solid case for withdrawal has already been well stated. The Florida Senate President, Don Gaetz, and the Florida House of Representatives Speaker, Will Weatherford, in a letter dated July 17, 2013 and addressed to the former Commissioner of Education, Tony Bennett, point out that PARCC should be rejected because it: (1) will “consume approximately twenty days of testing” which represents less instructional time in the classroom; (2) fails to provide assessment data needed to meet various educational objectives; (3) requires the use of computers and technology for the administration of assessments and schools neither have the technology nor have the budgets to provide for such; and (4) represents security issues vis-a-vis sensitive student data which may be compromised. Read the letter here.
But, now, the proposal for yet another set of new assessments must be analyzed. Florida has spent over $400 million dollars developing and maintaining the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) which is the State’s current assessment. Jeb Bush hailed the FCAT during his two terms in office, yet now, as was revealed in a recent interview of the former “Education Governor”, as he is often called, he admitted that the FCAT was no more than “a gateway to graduate from high school, not to be college ready, as evidenced by the fact that gosh 12% or 13% of students don’t graduate because they can’t pass a 10th grade level test.” Read the entire interview here.
This begs the questions: But, Governor Bush, isn’t the purpose of graduating from high school to be college ready? Why would you have hailed the FCAT with such fervor if you knew that it was no more than a “gateway” assessment? And besides, what does that really even mean?
Next, taxpayers need to ask themselves: Can we really trust Former Governor Bush to sell us the new CCSS, or will he be admitting to their inherent flaws in a few years when it is time to re-fill the corporations’ coffers with replenished profits received from developing yet another set of “new and improved” assessments, say in the year 2022? How many times can the wheel of education and assessments be re-invented before taxpayers start raising an eyebrow?
Limitations of the Florida State Board of Education
The Bill also provides that the Board for the State will be prohibited from entering into certain agreements which give “an outside entity control over curricular standards or assessments.”
If one understands the history of the CCSS, it can be inferred that Representative Mayfield wants to underscore that three Federal Statutes, the Constitution of the State of Florida and the Florida Statutes, expressly state that matters of education are reserved to the State of Florida and its local school boards.
Because the CCSS were developed by Achieve, Inc. under the auspices of two private Washington, DC based trade organizations known as the National Governor’s Association and The Council of Chief State School Officials, as opposed to the Board of Education and/or the local school districts in the State of Florida, the CCSS are in direct violation of the three Federal Statutes, the State of Florida Constitution and the Florida Statutes, not to mention the U.S. Constitution. It appears that this section of the Bill is an effort to restore the balance of power that ensures and protects our freedoms and liberties in this great constitutional republic.
Comparative Analysis of the CCSS to Other State Standards
Lastly, the Bill requires that the Board of Education compare the CCSS to other states’ standards.
In light of what the Florida Senate President, Don Gaetz, and the Florida House of Representatives Speaker, Will Weatherford stated in the letter referenced to above, it would seem that this would be poor use of the Board’s financial resources and misuse of its time, not to mention superfluous, as Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Weatherford have already conducted such as comparative analysis.
Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Weatherford have stated:
Florida has a rich history of student-centered reform. Florida’s strong education polices have made us a model for the nation and have resulted in extraordinary gains in student achievement…The Legislature is committed to students, parents, and taxpayers of Florida. By ensuring decisions are uniquely tailored to our state, we reinforce our dedication to providing Floridians with an education that directly leads to success in the opportunities and challenges of our economy.
It seems, according to these two Legislators, that this comparison has already been made.
Although HB 25 is referred to as a “Pause Bill,” suggesting that the implementation of the CCSS is merely “temporarily” stopped, it should really have been called the “Halt Bill” which would suggest the possibility not only of a “temporary” pause, but also one that could be “permanent.” In other words, it should be boldly referred to as the “Halt Bill” because all of the facts point out that the CCSS are not only illegal, but that they would also prove to be a costly endeavor for taxpayers in the absence of a meritorious claim to advance educational standards in the Great State of Florida.