Teacher of the Year speaks out on Florida Standards

One of Duval County's leading teachers wrote a guest column for the Florida Times-Union.

11/19/2019

JPEF works to elevate teacher leadership through the EDDYs Experience, a yearlong program to celebrate and empower the 180+ Teachers of the Year in Duval County. As part of that work, we help teachers share their views on issues of public education policy.

Recently, we reached out to Teachers of the Year to learn what they think about the state revising the Florida Standards, which set expectations for what skills students master in each grade. In response, Lori Dunn-Reir, Teacher of the Year at Baldwin Middle-High, wrote the following guest column, which was published on Saturday in the Florida Times-Union. Below is the full text of the guest column.

Check out our Advocacy Center to learn more about the Standards review process as it unfolds.

Guest column: Award-winning teacher calls for consistent, realistic, relevant standards

After Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order declaring war on school standards, teachers, students and parents have felt frustration. We are set to revise the standards for the fifth time in 24 years.

As a veteran Language Arts educator, I started teaching prior to the advent of standards. As teachers, we were hired as content experts in our fields, and we worked in professional teams to develop a curriculum that was challenging but reflected the needs and values of our communities.

However, standards-based education is not going away. Standards play an important role; they are necessary to provide a framework for consistent expectations. Standards are important to provide a picture of where students are at versus where they need to be.

If the current standards are going to be revised, we need to ensure that these standards are truly an improvement. It’s vital to make them understandable, realistic and relevant for all. They must be flexible and allow creativity to become central to the classroom once again. They must promote a love of learning, not just a desire to pass standardized tests.

Even if the revised standards are an improvement, it still doesn’t guarantee students will learn more. Implementation is key.

School personnel will need to be trained. Online learning platforms based on current standards, such as Achieve 3000 and CommonLit, will take time to be revised. District curriculum guides will need to be rewritten. Common assessments at the school level will all need to be revised. This will take manpower and time, both of which result in increased spending.

Is this the best use of precious education dollars?

Looking at the big picture, the real question is whether better standards will result in higher student achievement and better schools. Standards alone are not the key to either of those things. Smaller classes, more support for struggling students, increased parent involvement at school and at home, professionally trained and committed educators, more resources — these are the changes that are needed to support excellence in education.

These are the answers I’m seeking as the Florida Department of Education hosts a statewide listening tour, and I hope the public is, too. Teachers, parents and students are the ones who are going to be living with the results of these revisions, so we owe it to ourselves to get involved.

Lori Dunn-Reier is a Language Arts Instructor and Teacher of the Year at Baldwin Middle Senior High School.

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