Common Core and the 2014 Florida legislative Session
An In-depth analysis of Common Core in the 2014 Session
June 11th 2014
In 2013, parents across Florida started sounding the alarm of the disastrous consequences that would be felt by our children with the adoption of the scheme called Common Core. These concerns fell on deaf ears in the Florida Legislature. Actually worse than ignoring us, they chose to deceive the people, by playing a shell game, thinking they could fool us into believing they had addressed our concerns.
The politicians in Tallahassee are saying they heard us and passed laws addressing our concerns, but did they?
In my years in Tallahassee, I have discovered that when politicians are feeling pressure from angry voters, they will always do the least amount they can possibly do to make you think they actually did something with the hopes that you will go away.
In some ways we may have given them an open door to deceive us. I think we made the mistake of referring to the Common Core scheme as “Common Core Standards”. As I met with Legislators, their standard prepared response was; “what is wrong with having standards?” We all would admit that there is nothing wrong with standards, the even mention that anyone wouldn’t want standards is almost ridiculous, but Common Core is about so much more than just standards and we gave them an opportunity to focus on the ridiculous and ignore the real danger.
Why is Common Core wrong for our students?
The problem with Common Core is not that it provides standards, even though educational experts that analyzed just the standards said they would set Florida students back two years, the problem is that there is also a transformational change to the method and practice of teaching. Common Core buries students in concepts at the expense of content. Make no mistake; there is a push to have national standards. That means every school will teach the same concepts on the same schedule, with no regard for the interests or abilities of individual students. Common Core is a one-size-fits-all scheme that kills the innovation and creativity of individual states, along with teachers, school boards and parents finding the best ways to teach our children. School funding and teacher’s salaries will be based on results from testing aligned to Common Core and teachers will be pressured to follow suggested curriculum and instructional material tied to Common Core. As someone said; those who write the test, set the curriculum.
Dr. Karen Effrem, who is a pediatrician, researcher, and conference speaker, has been an ardent opponent of Common Core. Dr. Effrem has provided testimony for Congress, as well as in-depth analysis of numerous pieces of major federal education, health, and early childhood legislation for congressional staff, state legislatures, and many organizations. Dr. Effrem serves on the boards of two national organizations: Education Liberty Watch and the Alliance for Human Research Protection.
Here is what Dr. Effrem has said about the Common Core scheme:
“Teachers will feel pressured to gear much of their instruction to this annual regimen. In the coming years, test results are likely to affect decisions about grade promotion for students, teachers’ job status and school viability ” -- Dr. Karen Effrem
“You have the national standards accompanying national tests which are paid for and the development overseen by the federal government. The federal government is involved in the assessment writing as well as in the curriculum guidelines and that’s important to understand. Everybody says, oh, well the states and the districts and the teachers can choose their own curriculum, it’s just standards, yet the stakes are so high for the results of these tests that that freedom is really only in there in theory because if student grade promotion, graduation, district funding, teacher pay and tenure are all dependent on the results of these tests how independent of the federal model curriculum do you think anybody is going to be?” -- Dr. Karen Effrem
Was PAARC the only problem?
After much pressure from parents around the state, Florida abandoned the controversial PAARC (one of the federally funded national testing consortiums for Common Core). Unfortunately they decided on a testing institute worse than the original, American Institutes for Research (AIR). American Institutes for Research are developing test for SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), which is the other federally funded, and supervised national testing consortium testing the national Common Core standards. AIR is a progressive non-profit think tank and advocates a left leaning social agenda with a heavy emphasis on psychological student profiling.
NEW YORK FIELD TESTS COMMON CORE ASSESSMENTS
Recently New York students took their first Common Core State Standards tests. Using the new Common Core aligned testing, students were asked to analyze both fiction and nonfiction, not only through multiple-choice answers but also short essays. The mathematics portion of the test included complex equations and word problems not always included in students’ classroom curriculums. After the first wave of exams, students were so overwhelmed by the convoluted and confusing questions that parents refused to let their children continue to take the test. New York principals reported problems with Common Core assessments, including:
- Difficult and confusing questions (some on unrelated topics).
- Unnecessarily long testing sessions “two weeks of three consecutive days of 90 minute periods”—that require more “stamina for a 10-year-old special education student than of a high school student taking an SAT exam."
- Field-test questions that do not factor into a child’s score but take up time.
- Confusing directions for the English Language Arts sessions.
- Math problems that repeatedly assess the same skill.
- Multiple choice questions that ask the student to choose from the right answer and the “next best right answer.” The fact that teachers report disagreeing about which multiple-choice answer is correct in several places on the English Language Arts exams indicates that this format is unfair to students.
Here is what we do know about Common Core:
- Common Core is not state-led and is not truly voluntary, especially because Florida signed onto Race to the Top Grant and requested a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
- Intrusive and extensive database (over 400 fields) is required by accepting the Race to the Top Grant money.
- Common Core includes an implicit reduction in the variety and difficulty of vocabulary by over-emphasizing informational texts.
- 70 percent of a teacher’s instructional materials must be derived from informational texts by the end of high school.
- New math will emphasize concepts and theories rather than traditional computation.
- Students will not receive the instructional time needed to learn how to do the operations because teachers will be forced to devote their precious few classroom minutes to explaining concepts.
- The unproven idea of testing based on essay answers leads to subjective grading where there is no wrong or right answer.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, was formerly Senior Associate Commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Education and in charge of the development of the state’s widely praised English Language Arts standards.
These problems are precisely the type of dumbing-down Dr. Sandra Stotsky warned about in her many critiques of the literary content or lack thereof of Common Core. Dr. Stotsky warned that:
"College readiness will decrease as a result of Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) standards, which include a marked shift from fiction in favor of informational texts... That decrease in college readiness, is due to the simplicity of such informational texts. “By reducing literary study,” “Common Core decreases students’ opportunity to develop the analytical thinking once developed in just an elite group by the vocabulary, structure, style, ambiguity, point of view, figurative language, and irony in classic literary texts.” -- Dr. Sandra Stotsk
2014 Florida legislative Session analysis on Common Core Bills
SB 188 -Student Data Privacy
SB 188 prohibits the disclosure of confidential and exempt education records to the federal government or any person, public body, body politic or political subdivision unless disclosure is authorized by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; FERPA authorizes school districts, colleges, and universities to disclose student education records without consent of the student or parent if the disclosure meets limited conditions. Examples of conditions include, but are not limited to, disclosure of student education records to:
- A contractor, consultant, or other party to whom an agency has outsourced institutional services or functions; and
- Organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, school districts, colleges, or universities.
SB 188 codifies recommendations from the Commissioner of Education to prohibit any agency or institution from collecting information regarding:
- Political affiliation
- Voting history
- Religious affiliation
- Prohibit the collection of Biometric information of a student or student’s parent or sibling
Bottom Line: SB 188 did nothing to stop the disclosure of student data. Private data can be disclosed to anybody due to FERPA. Of the over 400 fields in the federally required database, SB 188 only eliminates three of them. SB 188 does seem to prohibit Biometric collection.
SB 864 - Instructional Materials for K-12 Public Education
In 2013 the Florida legislature passed a law giving local school districts the option to choose from state reviewed textbooks or the school district could choose their own textbooks, although they would have to be Common Core aligned. The original bill language of SB 864 this past session would have forced school districts to take over the job of reviewing and choosing textbooks. The House and Senate could not agree on language and the only change SB 864 accomplished was to create an appeals process for parents to object to textbooks and a requirement for notification before a school district adopts material.
SB 864 was originally touted as being a return to local control over educational materials, however, even if the original language of the bill stayed intact, it still would have been superficial at best, as long as the Florida Statutes and “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards” include curriculum standards that are found in the federal Common Core Standards, with end of year standardized testing being administered by Common Core compliant testing (AIR) and funding being contingent upon the student results of the end of year exams administered by Common Core compliant testing (AIR), our school districts will be forced to “choose” Common Core compliant instructional material.
HB 7031 - Education
In the 2013 legislative session the legislature passed SB 1076, which changed Sunshine State Standards to Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and defined it to include Common Core Standards in Math and English.
Refer to page 8 of SB 1076: “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards” means the state’s public K-12 curricular standards, including common core standards in English Language Arts and mathematics, adopted under s. 1003.41”.
HB 7031 simply deleted references to Common Core Standards, and despite minor changes, they are still 99.1% Common Core. They can call it what they want, it is still Common Core Standards including the other bad aspects of Common Core (CCSI), including assessments, curriculum, textbooks and database.
Legislative Champions who fought to stop Common Core
Representative Debbie Mayfield filed and sponsored HB 25, which would have created strict criteria before Common Core could be implemented. Representative Mayfield not only sponsored HB 25, she fought for it to be heard in committee and traveled across Florida to reach as many Floridians as she possibly could to explain the disaster known as Common Core. Unfortunately, House leadership still refused to let HB 25 be heard in even one committee. Representative Mayfield took a lot of heat from the pro-common core crowd, which included her own party’s leadership, but she never backed down and she deserves a lot of credit for that fight.
Senator Greg Evers filed and sponsored SB 1316, the companion bill to HB 25. Senator Evers also ran into a roadblock by Senate leadership who refused to let SB 1316 be heard in even one committee. Senator Evers lobbied other Senators for support as well as the Governor to no avail.
HB 25 Representative Co-Sponsors (12):
- Ben Albritton
- Doug Broxson
- Matt Caldwell
- Neil Combee
- Dane Eagle
- Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen
- Matt Hutson
- Ray Pilon
- Ray Rodrigues
- David Santiago
- John Tobia
- Charles Van Zant
SB 1316 Senate Co-Sponsors
- Alan Hays
- Lizbeth Benacquisto (Pundit’s felt that Senator Benacquisto co-sponsorship of SB 1316 was a campaign stunt for her run for US Congress and attempting to deflect her previous advocacy for Common Core.)
Legislative “Enemies” blocking any substantive debate on Common Core
Senator John Legg - Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and vocal proponent of Common Core. Senator John Legg would not allow SB 1316 to be heard or debated in his committee.
Senator Bill Galvano - Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and member of the Senate Education Committee. Senator Galvano would not support SB 1316 being debated in committee.
Senator Kelli Stargel - member of the Senate Education Committee. Senator Stargel was another large proponent of Common Core and would not hear any objections. Her Legislative Aide referred to our concerns as “White Noise” (a reference to a random signal with a constant power spectral density).
Senator Don Gaetz - Senate President. Senator Gaetz refused to use his position as Senate President to allow SB 1316 to at-least be debated in committee. However, Senator Gaetz did use his influence to have language inserted into a school voucher bill to require private schools to use Common Core aligned testing. Fortunately, because of your calls and emails, the language was removed.
Representative Eric Fresen - Chairman of House Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Representative Fresen refused to allow HB 25 to be heard in his committee.
Representative Marlene O’Toole - Chair of the House Education Committee. Representative O’Toole refused to let HB 25 to be heard in her committee.
Representative Janet Adkins - Chair of the House K-12 Subcommittee. Representative Adkins refused to allow HB 25 to be heard in her committee.
Representative Elizabeth Porter - Vice-Chair of the House Education Committee. Representative Porter is also a large proponent of Common Core and used her influence to stop HB 25.
Representative Will Weatherford - Speaker of the House. Speaker Weatherford, like his counterpart in the Senate, would not use his influence to allow HB 25 to be heard in even one committee. op HB 25.
What do we do now?
First of all, it may seem like we are losing some battles, but I do feel we are winning the war. Stopping this insidious policy will not be easy. The entrenched political elites like Jeb Bush, and special interest groups seeking financial gain from Common Core are not going to go away quietly. The fact that they even tried to deceive us with worthless legislation, still shows we have them nervous.
Due to all of your hard work we have made great strides and now is the time to double down, don’t cut them any breaks, don’t listen to their slick talking points. The best thing we can do now is to make the November election a referendum on Common Core.
If any candidate tells you that “we don’t have common core now, we have Florida Standards”, this person does not deserve your vote. Remember the minor changes to Common Core standards were less than 1%. American Institutes Research (AIR) will be conducting Common Core aligned assessments. We still have an extensive and intrusive database.
Your vote is the most powerful tool you have in fighting for liberty; do not give it away easily.
Liberty First Network