What top teachers think about revising the Florida Standards

We asked teachers of the year what they think about the Florida Standards.

10/18/2019

Earlier this year, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order calling for a revision of the Florida State Standards and elimination of the Common Core.

Since then, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has worked with educators and other experts to draft proposed changes to the standards, while taking public comment. Now, FDOE is conducting a listening tour around the state for additional community input before finalizing the K-12 standards and submitting a report to the State Board of Education.

The listening tour will make a stop next Monday, October 21 at Liberty Pines Academy in St. Johns County. It’s the closest event to Duval County. This is your opportunity to share your perspective on the existing standards as well as thoughts on any proposed changes.

Ahead of the listening tour stop, we wanted to know what teachers think about the Florida Standards. We asked the 2019-2020 school-level Teachers of the Year to respond to a few questions about the standards. We had 18 teachers respond, including new teachers who have only taught the current standards, and experienced teachers who have been in Florida classrooms for 25 years and who have been through multiple rounds of changes to the standards.

Here are some of the common themes we heard from these elite education professionals.

The Florida Standards were an important step forward, and they’re mostly working.

The Florida Standards were an effort to set high expectations for student learning that will prepare them for success in college and career. For the most part, teachers who responded felt the standards are working well to achieve this goal.

“I do not believe that the standards should be changed drastically for the reason that when we make these modifications as we have in the past it causes huge gaps for children that are in the midst of the change. These standards have proven to work and unless proven otherwise I do not see the need to create more chaos for our students.” Jennifer Cribbs, J. Allen Axson Montessori

"In my experience, I do believe most of my students are successful in school with the current standards. If the standards were to change, my hope would be that they would take into consideration the diversity of all learning levels and be written in a way that is easier for parents and students to dissect." Kimberly Boone, River City Science Academy Mandarin

"[T]he standards need to stay as they are now. Standards drive instruction and the adopted state/district curriculum is used as the resource to help implement and differentiate these standards into instruction for the students. Teachers need to be respected as a professional and have the freedom [to] implement best practices in the classroom. Teaching the STANDARDS and using the curriculum as a resource will create lifelong learners that are college and career ready." Karen S. Hyers, Pickett Elementary School

"Approximately 85% of my students are military children so they have to move about every 3 years to a new school in another state. The Common Core standards ensure that the students are about on the same learning path when they get to their new school. This is a big issue for our kids." James Maxwell, Joseph Finegan Elementary School

Any revisions to the standards should be made thoughtfully.

The standards build from one grade level to the next, so they shouldn’t be changed in isolation from each other. They’re also aligned to coursework in other states, which helps ensure Florida students are prepared as well as their peers across the country.

“Teachers, administration, and parents need to be included in the decision making regarding standards that will affect our future generation. Do you want them to be the best that they can be? Take the time to consider carefully and include the teachers as part of this very important decision in regards to student education!” Diane Rys, Spring Park Elementary School

"I think we need some stability in the educational system. We are constantly changing the programs we use, the curriculum to follow, and methods of teaching. If the standards were to change they need to be fully analyzed and training must be provided to teachers, ahead of implementation." Katherine Wonnell, Kirby Smith Middle School 

"[C]onsider our struggling third-grade students. Consider their data success rates and how they continue to struggle in turnaround and low performing schools." Dyneshia J. Thomas, Hyde Park Elementary

Implementation of new standards takes work, money and time.

Adopting the current standards has been a lot of work for teachers. If the standards are significantly changed, it will take another huge lift to implement them well, which should not be rushed or under-resourced. Educators will need new instructional materials, like textbooks, as well as professional development opportunities and time for lesson planning to create new curricula aligned to the new standards. It will also require new statewide tests.

“I'm not against change, however, I definitely have questions. How will this affect the 2020-21 school year? Will teachers be given time to map out the curriculum to align with the new standards? How will this affect the students who will take the [Florida Standards Assessment] in 2021? How will this affect the content that is in our current online content and in the textbooks that were adopted within the past five years?” Jean Sicoli, Florida Cyber Charter Academy 

"For the love of education, funding will be a primary need as we transition into a new idea of teaching. Teachers will need effective and relevant training in order to adapt to new standard adoptions. There are still teachers out here folded with a passion for teaching and a love for their subject areas, however, the weight of so many other responsibilities we are losing momentum." Regina Haywood-Johnson, Highlands Middle School

"As education continues to evolve and change, we must address understanding, rigor and outcomes. When something as complex as standards are changed, how will we create true and deep understanding? What will be the roll out and how will reach each level from the superintended, to every teacher and aid in the building? These are not items to be review once in a large lecture setting. Items like standards must be reviewed dissected, internalized and shared before they can be taught in a masterful way." Petrice Dunbar, Brentwood Academy

Teaching the standards should not be about teaching to the test.

The standards are the expectations of what students should be able to do at each grade level, and the Florida Standards Assessment is what measures student learning of the standards. Scores on this test have huge implications for teacher evaluations and school grades, so this pressure leads some schools to focus on teaching to the test instead of helping students master skills for life. Critical thinking and technology skills are a big part of what will make students successful.

“The moon should stay the goal, but with this in mind, we don't need any more airplane parts. Let's figure out ways to build rocket ships instead.” Michael Ham, Matthew Gilbert Middle School 

"With these new standards [from five years ago], a new testing system was implemented, and the stakes have been higher than ever. I absolutely believe that educators and students should be accountable for learning. However, tying these assessments to teachers’ wages, school grades and student promotion has caused an immense amount of pressure on all stakeholders. Many have stated that they feel like they are preparing students to pass a test, not prepare for a future career." Ashleigh Haug, Henry F. Kite Elementary School

Most importantly, listen to educators.

Most of all, teachers believe that standards should be a matter decided by education professionals – e.g. teachers – and not politicians looking to put their stamp on public education. Teachers who responded are hopeful the Florida Department of Education will truly take their perspectives into account when deciding about revisions to the standards.

“I love being a public school teacher, but it sure feels like people in leadership don't trust the teachers to do our jobs sometimes …. I wish that trust could travel all the way to where the highest-level leaders also knew we were doing amazing things with too little time or money.”

Renee McNulty, Jean Ribault High School

"We want to be involved in the process. Florida should ask the teachers, not tell us...it is my opinion that if Florida wants to change standards and streamline instruction they should provide educators statewide with professional development on those standards. Professional development is imperative. They should outline and teach us what their expectations are for learning and provide us with guided practice in developing meaningful lessons. Again, educators should be involved in the process." Lisa Kiernan, Oceanway Middle School

Additional reflections on change

"Standards will always be a challenging topic because we have decided to make a standards-based education a political topic. Often times people hear "common core" as a rallying cry for one political party or another. I beg any stakeholders to do one task before choosing one set of standards over another; read them. Thoughtfully and thoroughly look through the details of what we are teaching our children. Don't just hear a title and make an assessment. Be thinkers, not judges." George Teuber, Andrew Jackson High School 

"I do believe that the standards should be changed. We need something that can be and will be implemented long term. I think we should look into standards that are more applicable to real-life situations and real-world scenarios. Change is not always a bad thing, but can be an opportunity for growth." Chelsey Briggs, San Jose Academy

"[T]he only thing in life that is constant is change and as educators adaptation is key to continuous success. We must provide the students with fundamentals and standards that will exemplify higher learning and strategically placed methods for worldwide success." Ernest Wade, Southside Middle School

"Standards should provide guidance to what instructors should teach and what students should learn. Of course, additions and revisions should be made by educators for the purpose of clarifying language or refining expectations; however, it is misleading to tout revisions of the standards as a cure-all for the entire Florida Education system." Sheila Heggood, Stanton College Preparatory School

"With the field of technology rapidly advancing, students are exposed to elements of life that shape their mind, body and soul, inside and outside of the classroom. For teachers to reach their students, they must know their students. As teachers, it is helpful to be relational and remain relevant with youth culture and teaching practices. We must deliver content in a way that engages and motivates students to learn. This is one way to achieve academic goals and increase scores." Alexis Carrington, Arlington Middle School

Make your voice heard on the Florida Standards on Monday, Oct. 21, at Liberty Pines Academy in St. Johns County. The Florida Department of Education wants to hear from you!

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