Department of Education approves Common Core changes at Orlando meeting



ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida education officials have officially adopted a handful of changes to school standards known as "Common Core State Standards."

The changes were adopted Tuesday during a State Board of Education meeting in Orlando. Some parents and teachers drove hours to get to the meeting so they could voice their concerns.

"Because they need to hear from us," grandmother Debbie Gunnoe said.

The benchmarks for learning in language arts and math were adopted by Florida in 2010 and have been approved by more than 40 other states. The standards were developed by a coalition of state leaders and establish what a student should know to be prepared for college and the workforce.

State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart also said she remains "on track" to make a decision in March regarding a new statewide testing assessment. It will replace existing tests which are primarily known as the FCAT.

Those changes would go into effect next school year.

Some parents aren't happy with the changes, saying the cost to taxpayers could skyrocket and there are no good estimates of what Florida standards would mean to the bottom line in local districts.

The biggest complaint from those parents was that the Florida State Board of Education is simply repackaging federal guidelines without enough input from teachers and parents around the state.

"We have no control. It's been ripped from us as parents," Laura Caruso with Florida Family Policy Council said.

Leaders of Florida Family Policy Council said the state board is barely changing federal standards but selling them as a new state plan for student performance standards.

"We made these standards stronger and they are in fact for Florida students," Dept. of Education commissioner Pam Stewart told WFTV.

Stewart has proposed a plan to remove items that automatically cause a school's grade to drop. The plan also eliminates SAT scores and certain graduation rates from the complex formula used to evaluate high schools.

Nearly half of Florida's high schools received an A grade for the past school year, amid an ongoing debate over the accuracy and complexity of the grading formula.

The grades for high schools are based on test scores, graduation rates and college readiness. Schools receive points based on how many students take college-level courses and how they score on tests such as the SAT.

Parents and teachers were protesting outside the Orange County School District headquarters well before the 8:30 a.m. meeting was to start. Despite their outcry, the board passed the amendments to the standards.