With January just around the corner, here are some of the education stories expected to be in the headlines in 2014.
IMPLEMENTING NEW COMMON CORE STANDARDS
Florida is one of 45 states that have fully adopted new math, English and literacy standards known as Common Core. Political opposition to the standards built throughout the year in both Florida and across the country.
Every Florida grade is scheduled to switch to the new standards this fall. The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade.
The political debate over the standards will continue in 2014, but more of the debate about the new standards will switch to implementation.
The Florida Association of District School Superintendents say they need more time to make the switch. They’re asking for an additional three years to gradually add more grades. They’d also like to throw out the school grading formula in favor of a new system measuring school progress.
Some states could suspend teacher evaluation and school accountability penalties during the transition to Common Core. That’s a question Florida leaders will also have to consider in 2014.
With the switch to Common Core means a new test which will replace most of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Five companies and the multi-state Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers signaled by a mid-December deadline that they want to provide Florida’s next statewide exam.
State leaders will have their priorities for the test. Will Florida be able to compare the results to other states? How many times a year will students be tested? How long will students take the test? Will students have to take the test online or will a pencil and paper option be available? What will the questions look like?
The Florida Department of Education is expected to recommend a new exam by March.
A new exam will mean changes to Florida’s school grading system.
But many educators are unhappy with the number of changes made in the last few years. That includes raising target test scores and adding new factors to grades, such as the percentage of high school students taking advanced coursework.
High schools have never earned higher grades, triggering an automatic increase in the points required to earn each grade next year. But elementary and middle school grades dropped this year, prompting the State Board of Education to approve a “safety net” preventing a school’s grade from dropping more than one letter this year and next.
The Florida Department of Education is working on changes to the formula, but have yet to discuss the details.
We’ve already seen the three candidates for governor talk about education as a way to distinguish themselves from each other.
Republican incumbent Rick Scott will tell voters about he pushed lawmakers to increase K-12 budgets the past two years, fought for teacher raises and opposed college and university tuition increases.
Democrat Charlie Crist wants to expand lottery-funded college scholarships. He’s also emphasized his differences from Scott, such as vetoing a bill which would have required teachers are evaluated based on student test scores. A similar measure was the first act Scott signed into law when he took office in 2011.
Former Democratic State Sen. Nan Rich says she’ll increase education funding and has noted she is the only candidate who has opposed Florida’s use of standardized testing and grading schools based in part on the results of those exams.
Education may not be the top issue in the 2014 governor’s race, but it will be important.
TEACHER EVALUATIONS AND PAY
The Student Success Act requires school districts begin paying teachers based on their evaluations starting this year.
The evaluations are a combination of student test scores, observations and other factors chosen by each school district.
The idea is that teachers earning higher score son their evaluations will be paid more. But though lawmakers required merit pay, they haven’t set aside any money for the program.
Many teachers don’t like the evaluations. And some teachers in subjects without an end-of-year exam have been evaluated based on the test scores of students they have not taught.
Superintendents will push to suspend the teacher evaluation requirements — as other states want — while switching to Common Core standards.
Because each district sets up their own evaluation system, some districts have a majority of teachers earning the highest rating while some districts have none.
The Florida Education Association is also challenging the law in court.
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