NPR Story
7:44 am
Thu June 20, 2013

Florida Teachers Report For Common Core Summer Camp

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 10:47 am

“I say common, you say core! Common!”

“Core.”

“Common!”

“Core.”

Teachers working in small groups were corralled to attention by their K-2 math leader.

It’s the first day the Florida Department of Education’s 2013 Common Core State Standards Summer Institutes.

This two-day session – the first of seven offered around the state – was held Tuesday at Gulf Breeze High School near Pensacola.

About 1,500 teachers and administrators filled dozens of classrooms to hear best practices for teaching with the new standards.

K-12 Deputy Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen was constantly on the move, ducking in and out of dozens of training sessions.

“Next year, we are doing blended course descriptions which means in all English language arts and math classrooms, they’ll be teaching the Common Core,” Tappen said.

Common Core focuses on less content, but is designed to leave students with a thorough understanding of each topic. The goal is to get American students on a par with international benchmarks and ready for life after high school.

Tappen hoped Tuesday’s participants will leave more confident about their knowledge of the new standards and eager to learn more.

“Next year is going to be the heavy lift for our teachers and for our schools administrators,” Tappen said. “We hope that this has set up a supportive environment, a trusting environment where they’ve learned enough to feel like they can get started.”

Dr. Pink Hightower, staff development director for Gadsden County Schools, said teachers in his district are asking for more training.

“They want to know what it looks like when it’s rolled out and exactly what they need to teach in order to have their students be able to perform on the Common Core exam,” Hightower said.

Districts have one more year to get ready for full implementation of the standards and the new Common Core exam, most likely PARCC in the 2014-2015 school year.

“I think they are not afraid of the idea,” Hightower said. “They just want to know what it is they need to do in order to be effective because of the new evaluation system that we have now.”

Starting in the fall, teacher salaries will be determined, in part, by how well their students perform on standardized assessments.

Tappen said teachers seem most concerned about the change in requirements. It’s not as simple as giving students answers to memorize. They’ll have to figure out and defend each answer, which will take some time.

“Things like having students cite evidence on a regular basis in all content areas, that’s a different kind of assignment to give (and) to assign grades to,” Tappen said. “The evidence of student learning, making sure every student in the classroom has provided you evidence of that before you move on – that’s going to be hard.”

The institute in Gulf Breeze is the smallest of this summer’s training sessions. Over 13,000 participants are registered have registered for the sessions, but that’s just a fraction of the state’s teachers.

“We have many more yet to reach,” Tappen said.

Copyright 2013 StateImpact Florida. To see more, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/.