Florida’s Ed Reformers Are Only Telling Half the Story on Common Core


Fresh of her stint as interim Education Commissioner for Florida, Pam Stewart is out working on her ed reformer bona fides as has penned a gushing column on Common Core for the St. Augustine Record:

In a guest column in last Sunday’s Record, Crescent Beach education consultant Dr. Jon Wiles recognized the importance of college and career readiness for Florida’s students but did not distinguish between the concepts of standards and curriculum. He suggested that moving forward to implement Common Core State Standards was instead a push to adopt common-core curriculum.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe educators are clear about the difference between standards and curriculum. Academic standards are the goals that students are expected to learn and understand before they graduate. Curriculum is the way local schools and educators decide how to deliver instruction to meet the academic standards.

Local schools have always had the autonomy to decide the curriculum that best meets their students’ needs, the roadmap that will prepare them for college, career, and life. That will not change with the implementation of Common Core State Standards. In fact, there will be many more options available to schools and districts.

Students will gain deeper, richer understanding of content because there are fewer and clearer standards to meet. They will learn critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. And schools could choose to have resources that go far beyond traditional textbooks.

Dr. Wiles went on to write that student achievement is lower in states with “rigid standards and testing will serve teprograms.”

Again, nothing could be further from the truth.

While being accurate, Stewart has cleverly blurred the lines between curriculum and standards. And like all ed reformers, she uses the technique of omission. While teachers will have a level of autonomy as Stewart says, she omits the reality that Florida’s children will be taking a national standardized test known as PARCC that’s aligned with Common Core. It replaces FCAT, but serves the same purpose as the be-all, end-all in grading kids, teachers and schools. PARCC will simply replace FCAT in it’s role as the only thing that matters in Florida.

Common Core and PARCC have been a silent juggernaut and is upon us now. Another cumbersome test regime is not all that’s here as a result of common core. Last week, Senate Bill 878 passed unanimously through the Senate Appropriations Committee. It’s a bill which fully commits Florida’s commitment to Common Core and was a requirement of our Race to the Top grant. The bill mandates sharing of private data from Florida’s children to a national database belonging to a consortium of corporations in the education industry. Such an alliance between Common Core and this corporate databasing controlled in Washington has drawn the ire of conservative journalist, Michelle Malkin:

While many Americans worry about government drones in the sky spying on our private lives, Washington meddlers are already on the ground and in our schools gathering intimate data on children and families.

Say goodbye to your children’s privacy. Say hello to an unprecedented nationwide student tracking system, whose data will apparently be sold by government officials to the highest bidders. It’s yet another encroachment of centralized education bureaucrats on local control and parental rights under the banner of “Common Core.”

As the American Principles Project, a conservative education think tank, reported last year, Common Core’s technological project is “merely one part of a much broader plan by the federal government to track individuals from birth through their participation in the workforce.” The 2009 porkulus package included a “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” to bribe states into constructing “longitudinal data systems (LDS) to collect data on public-school students.”

Malkin’s fierce entry into the Common Core debate – this is her 4th piece – is a clear signal that opposition is bipartisan. Even Malkin finds the glee of education corporations creepy:

At the South by Southwest education conference in Austin, Texas, last week, education technology gurus were salivating at the prospects of information plunder. “This is going to be a huge win for us,” Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at education software company CompassLearning, told Reuters. Cha-ching-ching-ching.

The company is already aggressively marketing curricular material “aligned” to fuzzy, dumbed-down Common Core math and reading guidelines (which more than a dozen states are now revolting against). Along with two dozen other tech firms, CompassLearning sees even greater financial opportunities to mine Common Core student tracking systems. The centralized database is a strange-bedfellows alliance between the liberal Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which largely underwrote and promoted the Common Core curricular scheme) and a division of conservative Rupert Murdoch’sNews Corp. (which built the database infrastructure).

Another nonprofit startup, inBloom Inc., has evolved out of that partnership to operate the database. The Gates Foundation and other partners provided $100 million in seed money. Reuters reports that inBloom Inc. will “likely start to charge fees in 2015” to states and school districts participating in the system. “So far, seven states — Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina and Massachusetts — have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.”

Rick Scott’s signature on SB 878 will add Florida to Malkin’s list.

As for Stewart, word on the street is that she seeks to be elevated to  St. John’s Public School Superintendent from her position as deputy when current superintendent Dr. Joe Joyner retires at the end of this school year. She would better serve the interests of St. John’s schools if she leveled with parents and not just dutifully spurt out the sugary talking points of the state’s education power brokers.

UPDATE: A commenter correctly pointed out that St. John’s superintendent of schools was misidentified. Dr. Joe Joyner is St. John’s superintendent.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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3 Responses to Florida’s Ed Reformers Are Only Telling Half the Story on Common Core

  1. Jennifer says:

    I’m kind of confused because the St. Johns County Superintendent is Dr. Joyner, not Ken Ladouceur. I hadn’t heard that Dr. Joyner was retiring. Is the information about St. Johns County in Florida?

    • Bob Sikes says:

      Jennifer: Thanks for correcting me. There are often perils of early morning/without and editor blogging. The silly part is that’s I’ve written about Joyner here before

  2. Bev Slough says:

    Thought I’d share that Dr. Joyner is NOT retiring this year.

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