The Board of Education approved new standards for language arts and mathematics at its Wednesday meeting.
There was little drama to the unanimous vote that replaced Common Core with Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST) Standards. But before the vote, some of the board members questioned whether the state was really making a monumental shift.
The move was a campaign promise Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to fulfill shortly after he was elected in 2018. A year ago, he signed an executive order demanding the elimination of all vestiges of the derided standards.
K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva, who presented the standards to the board, acknowledged that some BEST lessons would be similar to Common Core, like learning the alphabet in kindergarten or learning multiplication in third grade.
“Could you just answer that question whether or not this is Common Core Phase 2?” asked Board Member Michael Olenick.
He pointed to some comments on social media saying the standards weren’t all that different.
But Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran took issue with that characterization.
“It’s not the same in any way,” he said. “It’s a complete eradication.”
Critics took to Twitter to rebut that argument. One pointed out that Board Member Tom Grady‘s comment that BEST adds cursive writing to the curriculum, was already in the standards, thus not a change.
Board member Grady undermined this narrative by pointing to a specific change of adding cursive. Cursive writing is already in the standards. The one specific change he mentioned isn’t an actual change. https://t.co/OxOHtYPXkR
— Luke A Flynt (@laflynt) February 12, 2020
Another pointed out the language on phonics and word recognition were similar.
But any further criticism in the meeting was muted.
The Florida PTA commended the redesign and superintendents from Leon and Wakulla counties gave their full-throated support for the BEST Standards.
Kathleen Oropeza with Fund Education Now, a group that advocates for investment in public schools, expressed some criticism, noting that many people previously liked Common Core, but not how it was implemented.
The Department of Education is boasting that it is adopting BEST with the most aggressive timeline in Florida’s history. It expects to have it completely implemented by 2023.
When the BEST standards were announced last month, DeSantis pitched them as going “beyond Common Core to embrace common sense.”
The replacement of Common Core shows a significant evolution in the politics surrounding the education standards, which were originally adopted in some form by 41 states.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush championed the Common Core standards.Then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist adopted them. Gov. Rick Scott enforced them as they were rebranded. And all this happened as a Republican-controlled Legislature championed accountability and high standards during a mission of education reform.