“What is common core curriculum? It means you will be much smarter when you’re a senior in high school,” fifth-grade teacher Donna Martinez tells her class at Palmetto Elementary on the first day of school.
Martinez is preparing her students for the changes that are coming their way.
“We’re going to learn to write to analyze,” Martinez said.
Florida is one of 45 states that have adopted the common core curriculum, which emphasizes fewer topics but a richer understanding of key subjects.
“Our point is to dig deep and get our children involved more and enriched more per grade level in an effort to truly master that grade level,” said Eric Torres, principal of Palmetto Elementary School.
Writing and communication skills will be emphasized in every subject. Torres said there will be less narrative writing but more explanatory writing. Miami-Dade School District officials are enthusiastically on board the common core train, and so are their counterparts in Broward County.
Broward Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie said common core moves teachers away from teaching to the test, as some have been accused of doing with the FCAT, and instead, focuses on developing skills needed in today’s global economy.
“Skills such as being able to take information, analyze it, develop solutions, work collaboratively with others, being able to communicate their ideas effectively, it’s mastering skill sets that are important for long-term success,” Runcie said.
“The creativity is allows me as a teacher is fabulous,” said Martinez.
But common core has plenty of critics, from those who say it’s too much change, too soon, to those who say local control of schools will be sacrificed to Washington.
“I object to this because it’s just like being in Cuba,” said John Fernandez. He joined a group called Florida Parents Against Common Core.
“Common core is a federal takeover of all the schools in the United States,” he said.
Local school officials say that’s just not true. Common core will, however, create a benchmark for states to compare each other’s test scores.
The FCAT will be retired after this school year, to be replaced by an as-yet undetermined assessment test that goes along with common core.
Instead of just bubbling in an answer on a multiple choice test, students will be expected to be able to explain their answers.