The Florida Department of Education is hosting three hearings to gather public input on the state's Common Core standards. The first in the series of hearings was scheduled to take place Tuesday evening at Hillsborough Community College's Dale Mabry Campus.
Florida is one of 45 states to adopt Common Core standards. State education leaders say the standards are learning benchmarks that have improved student achievement, since Florida began implementing Common Core in English, language arts, and math in 2010.
K-2 students use Common Core standards. Students in 3rd through 12th grades use a blended version of Common Core as part of a gradual implementation.
Critics, though, say it's a federal government takeover of local classrooms. Opponents also say Common Core standards equate to mandated curriculum.
Tuesday morning, members of the State Board of Education held their regular meeting in Tampa. Commissioner Pam Stewart answered critics, saying that in 2010, the state adopted Common Core standards, but not any attached curriculum.
"The State of Florida is not requiring any curricular materials with regard to the Common Core state standards," Stewart told FOX 13. "The State Board of Education adopted the standards in English, language arts, and mathematics and that was all the state board adopted. They did not adopt any of the ancillary materials that accompany the standards."
A group called "Stop Common Core" Florida held a press conference Tuesday before the public hearing. Stop Common Core is composed of members of several organizations, including the Tampa Tea Party, Tampa 9/12, and Community Issues Council.
"Common Core is a set of national standards. And they say it's not curriculum, but you cannot have standards without attaching curriculum to that," said Tampa Tea Party's Sharon Calvert.
Calvert, a former teacher, home schools her two children.
"There is no local control. When they say there is local control, there isn't. Yes, we get to choose books, but the books are all connected to the Common Core standards," Calvert said. "The question you need to ask yourself 'am I my child's parent? Or is the government my child's parent?' "
Stop Common Core Florida also fears that too much of students' personal information is provided to the federal government, as a result of Common Core. Ze'ev Wurman, a former Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. Department of Education, says that data includes religious and political affiliations, medical information, and DNA sequences.
Wurman believes the personal information could result in limited career choices for students.
"They want to actually plan individual paths of the individual child. To do that, you have to know how each child is doing on a variety of criteria: some of them academic, some of them person," said Wurman. "Therefore, they say 'Johnny is good enough to be a carpenter, but he's not good enough to be a flight controller.'"
Stop Common Core Florida also says with Common Core, "the state will subject children to data mining, iris scanning, cataloging, psychological parameters and much more without the consent from their parents."
"I think it is incumbent upon all of us in education, as well as parents, to guard against that and make sure that nothing like that were to happen for our students, so we'll take a very hard stand on those issues and make sure that that doesn't occur," Stewart said.
Department of Education Communications Director Joe Follick added that Governor Rick Scott has asked the department to do a review of what personal data it collects. Follick says that the department has no plans to collect any additional data on top of what it already collects.
Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia attended Tuesday morning's meeting. Elia fully supports the Common Core standards and says they are working.
"These are standards that are going to help students in Florida and across the country," said Elia. "They are not driven by the federal government. They were developed as a result of the governors across the entire country and teachers and professors who say we need to raise the standards so that America can produce a great workforce."
The State Department of Education called the hearings after Governor Rick Scott issued an executive order demanding that the state end its relationship with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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