Outside analysis finds Florida's new academic standards 'disappointing'

Schools across the state are slated to begin adopting Florida’s new educational standards in the 2021-2022 school year, but according to new findings from an education think-tank in Washington, the new math and language arts standards are rushed and weak.

In late January, Governor Ron DeSantis announced he would be replacing Florida’s controversial Common Core standards with a new system called Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking, using the acronym, BEST.

According to the outside review, released Tuesday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “the results are disappointing.” Analysts say the academic overhaul was rushed, leaving some stark insufficiencies. 

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As an example, the language arts portion is touted as having rigorous standards that are measurable and clear, but analysts say the standards leave out any direction for reading of specific subjects like science and they lack requirements for listening critically. 

It's critical to note when reading the outside review that the Fordham Institute did support the Common Core curriculum being replaced in Florida. The analysis goes on to find that students will “learn to comprehend what they read, but any kind of critical or evaluative analysis of what they read is barely apparent.”

When it comes to math, the reviewers found that the state had covered all the important areas effectively, but had placed a heavy emphasis on the procedures at the expense of understanding how concepts connect. The report also notes quote “many technical and language errors throughout the math section.”

The Florida Department of Education is defending the new curriculum, accusing the report's authors of being invested in keeping Common Core in states across the nation. The reviewers, however, are recommending "significant and immediate revisions" to the curriculum. The analysis concludes that Florida’s “standards are not suitable until and unless these revisions occur." 

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In a statement, the Florida Department of Education said the state needed to raise expectations.

"Unless we raise expectations, we will continue to see stagnant growth," the statement read in part. "Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards were created by Florida teachers, for Florida students, and have completely broken the Common Core status quo. Florida restored a culture of being big and bold for all Florida students. If we are not bold, we deny our children equitable access to the lifelong opportunities that they all deserve."

State education officials also said the authors of Fordham's analysis are "personally, and financially, invested in keeping Common Core in states across the nation."

"These authors have countless books for sale analyzing and outlining how to teach and learn Common Core. Ironically, one is even hosting and promoting educator trainings in Florida on the B.E.S.T. Standards, and charging Florida educators a $99 registration fee," officials said.  "How dare they protect their own pocketbooks when the results are clear – after 10 years of constraining students and educators to the confines of Common Core, Florida students deserve better."

"Again, we are proud and appreciate the affirmation by Fordham that Florida has eliminated Common Core and encourage other states to consider following in our steps by empowering our educators to set high standards that are both rigorous and clear in support of student learning," they added.