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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Common Core sparks school board debate

TAMPA — The rollout of the Common Core State Standards has dominated recent education debates in Florida and across the country.

And with the standards scheduled to be fully in place next school year, the topic took center stage Tuesday at a Hillsborough County School Board workshop.

During a discussion about making sure parents understand the new educational goals, board member Stacy White said he refuses to be a “PR agent” for Common Core and urged schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia to slow the district’s transition.

“I agree we need high standards,” said White, who isn’t seeking re-election to his District 4 seat and will run for the county commission this year instead.

“We’re the political arm of this school district and we’re going to have some differing philosophies in some cases. Local control has eroded. When we lose local control, we get this one-size-fits-all model we’re talking about today.”

Board member Candy Olson disagreed.

“I want to move as fast as we can and not slow down,” she said.

“In my mind, the Common Core standards are not very different from what we’ve done. We have to give our kids the skills to understand what they need to do. I don’t know how else to do it.”

The standards, considered to be more rigorous, are designed to better help students prepare for the skills they will need for college and careers. They emphasize critical thinking and aim to have students learn how to back up their answers with evidence.

Earlier this year, Florida made some minor changes and renamed them the Florida Standards.

They have been adopted by most states and the District of Columbia and will be in place next school year, in addition to a new test that will replace the FCAT.

Some are frustrated that there’s seems to be a lot of anxiety and fear surrounding the standards for parents and others in the community.

“I hope we can find a way to talk about this so it is not this scary monster waiting to grab our kids,” board member Doretha Edgecomb said. “I worry about it.”

Board member Cindy Stuart said she’s gotten a lot of calls from parents who don’t understand the Common Core.

“I don’t know how to respond to these parents,” Stuart said. “We need some concrete stuff in our hands, whether it’s a movie, a Facebook page or documentation on our website.”

Wynne Tye, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said staff will continue working on educating parents about Common Core and that board members should contact her if they need help answering parents’ questions.

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Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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