Pasco superintendent on end to Common Core: 'We need to be very, very cautious'

Reactions following Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement on eliminating Florida’s Common Core-type system has been both positive and negative, but also left some superintendents surprised. 

Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning told FOX 13 he was aware DeSantis wanted to address the standards, but didn’t know it would happen weeks after he entered the governor’s office.

“It caught a lot of superintendents, including myself, off guard,” he explained. “All of a sudden, boom, the executive order is in the process of being issue. Something like that is a huge shift. It is an incredible shift in the way the school districts train and plan.”

Browning said everything they do in the school district is around those standards, and understands some teachers are probably elated to hear the news, but others have already embraced the Common Core standards. 

“If I were a teacher I would be a little troubled because ‘Here we go again. We are going to shift what I’ve been doing in the last eight to nine years,’” he said. “Say we get another governor in four to eight years and they say, ‘Well, we’re going to shift those standards again.’ I’m not saying that Gov. DeSantis doesn’t have every right to do that.”

“I think we need to be very, very cautious and careful about how we go about doing this,” Browning added.

Common Core standards were adopted widely across the country in 2010, but were modified in Florida four years later under former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to become the “Florida Standards.” Those changes didn't happen overnight, Browning explained, and the school district is still adjusting to those standards.  

The textbooks in Pasco County are “more closely aligned to the Florida Standards than they ever have been.” 

“Then, we’re going to change the standards. Now you have curriculum materials that will be not aligned, probably, to the new standards,” he said. “How do teachers teach?”

While the executive order doesn’t immediately abolish the Common Core-based program, DeSantis directed the State Education Department to write new curriculum standards that would replace it. This will include seeking input from both parents and teachers. 

“There’s a lot more to this than just doing away the standards by signing an order,” he recalled explaining to Richard Corcoran, Florida’s education commissioner, after the announcement. “You think about the hundreds of millions of dollars that districts across the state have spent in professional development and instructional materials.”

A reform plan would then be presented to the state legislature in 2020. Browning thinks if the legislators adopt the plan, it would still take a minimum of two years to implement them across school districts.

“When they adopted them in 2010, we are still working with our teachers in learning the standards,” he said. “Here we are nine years out and we are still trying to get implemented under the Florida Standards.”

“It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens over the next year,” Browning added.