Palm Beach County School District lobbyist Vern Pickup-Crawford spoke to the Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board on Monday about challenges created for educators as a result of state and federal changes.
In particular, there has been a great deal of parental concern about the new Common Core curriculum, now the Florida Standards, being put in place, especially for math. The issue came up recently at the five hearings conducted by the school district, including one at Royal Palm Beach High School on Oct. 13.
“A lot of people have addressed the issue of fifth grade math and changing how you go about it,” Crawford said. “Much of this is invoking different critical thinking skills or analytic skills as to how you approach a problem, as well as what the answer is.”
He said that the curriculum change, coupled with other factors, including altered high school graduation requirements enacted by the state in 2010, teacher evaluation, technology and how to go about implementing a new testing system, all have added to the complexity.
“All these are moving pieces,” Crawford said. “The fact of the matter is they are not all developed. You’ve got to build the airplane and test it first before you really fly it. We had people in Tallahassee in 2010 and 2011 who patted themselves on the back and said, ‘Isn’t this great? We’re flying the plane and still building it.’ As we get closer to the consequences of this state policy, people have become much more in tune to the issues that we have.”
He said that numerous school districts across Florida and in many areas of the nation are raising the same concerns. “It’s all about planning and having good, solid policy, which, quite frankly, we’ve got some concerns about as we progress out into this year,” he said.
Crawford said that Marcia Andrews, the District 6 representative on the Palm Beach County School Board, has been working at the forefront of the issue with the Florida School Board Association, but they are also trying to focus on key issues relative to assessment.
“One of them that came up loud and clear from the five meetings that we had was the fact of technology,” he said. “How many third-graders, how many 8-year-olds, for that matter, fifth-graders, how many 10-year-olds, are fully proficient in the use of a keyboard and mouse in a timed situation. The student is taking a 90-minute test, has to be able to read what the issues are, formulate in their mind a response to that, be able to scroll back and forth accurately, and respond with accuracy on a keyboard in 90 minutes?”
Not all students will have that proficiency, he said.
“Keyboarding skills are not currently a state standard,” Crawford added. “That’s not to say that 8-year-olds and 10-year-olds cannot learn keyboarding skills.”
However, it takes time, effort and all students need to have access to a keyboard outside the school setting.
“We really need some type of paper-based option at this point until we are able to get to where the state wants us to be,” Crawford said, adding that last week, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart issued a memorandum stating that paper exams would be available for writing in grades four through seven. “That’s not the total picture. It doesn’t address reading or other issues, but it is an indication that the department and the state board are listening, which is a major significant move that we have had in the past year.”
He added that the Palm Beach County School Board passed a resolution in September addressing those issues at both the state and federal level as it pertains to student assessment and district accountability.
“This resolution began as a Palm Beach County effort,” Crawford said. “It’s making the rounds around the state. What we’re asking for at this point is the same as last year… We need a transition period. We need to have an orderly period of at least three years.”