LAND O’ LAKES — Grades on elementary school report cards sent home this week may have come as an unsettling surprise to some parents.
Pasco County school district officials say the move to Common Core State Standards means that learning expectations have risen and, as a result, student grades may have fallen.
To prepare parents for the potential shock, the school district included a letter with the report cards to explain why this year’s first report card may have lower grades than in previous years.
“This does not mean that students are learning less, but instead that the expectation for their learning has increased,” said the letter, signed by Vanessa Hilton, the school district’s director of the Office for Teaching and Learning.
Common Core State Standards are national academic standards that have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Proponents say the standards provide more depth of learning and will better prepare students for college, the workforce and competition in a global economy.
A growing number of critics say the standards aren’t as rigorous as proponents claim and represent a federal intrusion into what should be state and local decisions about education. Some opponents express concerns that data collected could violate student privacy.
Math and English language arts standards already are being phased in and are to be fully implemented in the 2014-15 school year. Among the supporters are President Barack Obama and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is among those who oppose Common Core.
In the letter to parents, Hilton wrote that as the year progresses they will see classroom instructional shifts that will lead students to gain the knowledge and skills they need to think and work at deeper levels; think critically about what they read and the math they perform; apply what they have learned to the real world; and communicate strong ideas and arguments in writing and react powerfully to what they read.
“Our transition to the (Common Core) represents a shift to raise the bar in all grades and ensure that our students are receiving a relevant and rigorous education,” Hilton wrote. “Because these standards are new and very challenging, we know that students will need the support of their teachers and parents to achieve at higher levels.”
She wrote that parents can help by reminding students that “learning is a process, and it is normal that repeated opportunities may be necessary to master new skills and understand new concepts.”
Because of criticisms and concerns raised about Common Core, the Florida Department of Education has been seeking feedback from the public about the standards, and held three public meetings across the state.
The deadline for citizens to provide input is Thursday. Floridians can submit their feedback by visiting the website www.flstandards.org or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The state Board of Education is scheduled to review the suggestions and comments at its Nov. 19 meeting at Santa Fe College in Gainesville.