Governor DeSantis announces Florida’s new B.E.S.T. K-12 Standards
By JULIE B. MAGLIO
January 31, 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order to eliminate Common Core curriculum in the state of Florida.
Over the past year, the Florida Department of Education has reviewed the state’s current K-12 academic standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics and have come up with revisions to the standards in order to move forward with the elimination of Common Core within the state. The new standards come with a new name: Florida Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.).
The standards include a civics component, in which the US Constitution is introduced to students in the 5th grade. With current Common Core standards, students are not instructed on the Constitution until grade 11. The civics component encourages students to have a “contextual understanding of American history,” according to FLDOE benchmark summary document.
Standards emphasize a strong foundation in mathematics, reading and writing; the eliminate confusing math; allow students the leeway to solve math problems how they feel most comfortable.
The importance of exposing students to content-rich text, such as classic literature, is also a major shift from Common Core. Through literature students are exposed to culture, history and heritage as well as story structure, cause and effect and character development.
Testing is another area where changes are proposed. 2020 legislation for testing policy changes include the requirement for students to take a Florida Civic Literacy test and the phasing out of other high school assessments including the 9th grade English Language Arts assessment and Geometry end of course assessment. Another bill would give all 11th grade students the opportunity to take either the SAT or ACT at no cost for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years.
The Florida Civic Literacy test would include 100 questions that encompass the U.S. citizenship exam and additional questions about landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases. The test would be administered to 12th graders, unless a student wanted to take the test earlier. Passing the test would NOT be a graduation requirement, yet if a student passes the exam while in high school, the student will receive credit for meeting the civic literacy postsecondary assessment requirement in Florida statutes, before admission to a state college or university.
In the 2022-2023 school year, the state will transition to new assessments aligned to the new content standards. Assessment changes are to include a reduction of word count in reading passages and reduction in total number of questions on each assessment.
New content standards may pose a challenge to school districts in the months ahead as they plan multi year curriculum and associated purchases such as textbooks and software.
The Hernando County School Board and school district staff discussed the new standards at a recent workshop. Gina Michalika, Deputy Superintendent, explained that there should be data available to help them plan what programs need tweaking or changing for next year.
She remarked, “Depending on if this gets approved, it will change our way of work.”