In 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declared the controversial Common Core State Standards initiative dead, telling a radio show host that it had been eclipsed by the federal K-12 Every Student Succeeds Act. “There isn’t really any Common Core anymore,” she told the host.
Apparently, new Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) never got the word. He said Thursday he was signing an executive order calling for the state to ditch its Florida State Standards for math and English Language Arts, which are essentially the Common Core standards with some tweaks and a new name.
While the order doesn’t mention Common Core, DeSantis did during an appearance at Ida S. Baker High School in Cape Coral, Fla. He was there with his education commissioner, Richard Corcoran.
“One of the things we would constantly hear about on the campaign trail is a frustration with a lot of parents in particular with this idea of Common Core, some of the testing and some of the things that go into that," DeSantis said. He said he was signing an executive order that would instruct Corcoran “to get to work and come up with good standards for the state of Florida, which will include eliminating Common Core and the vestiges of Common Core.”
He also said the new standards would make civics education a priority, a subject he said is important to him.
The history of Common Core in Florida involves four Republican governors: Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist (who was elected as a Republican but switched to independent during his single term and is now a Democrat), Rick Scott and now DeSantis.
Bush was a national pioneer in the education movement that seeks to run schools like businesses and use standardized tests to hold schools accountable. He became an unlikely ally of President Barack Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, when they started a federal program that effectively coerced states to sign on to the Common Core State Standards.
Only four states never adopted Common Core, which was advanced when state budgets were decimated by the Great Recession. The Obama administration dangled a total of $3.4 billion in front of states to implement the school overhaul. At least a dozen states have withdrawn or significantly rewritten the Core, but most still use the standards (with minor changes in some cases).
Bush had ample influence on education policy in Florida even after he left office in 2007, and the state approved Common Core under Crist in 2010. But the bipartisan support it started with began to turn into bipartisan criticism. Some worried about how the standards were developed and how they were forced on states; there were also concerns about some of the content, especially for young children.
To make matters worse, some states rushed the Core into the classroom without giving teachers sufficient time to learn it or build lesson plans around it. They also signed on to federally funded consortia that created Common Core-aligned standardized tests, which became controversial and were dropped by many states.
Florida schools began phasing in the Common Core in the 2011-2012 school year, and by then Scott was governor and his base did not like Common Core. He ordered the state to come up with new standards, which were essentially the Core with some minor changes in content, and a new name: the Florida State Standards. He also removed the state from a Core testing consortium, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, widely known by the acronym PARCC.
Florida played a leading role in the consortium, but in his 2013 letter to Duncan declaring Florida’s exit, Scott accused the education secretary of meddling in state education affairs. Bush maintained his support for the Core for years and was criticized for it by Republicans during his unsuccessful 2016 run for the GOP presidential nomination.
President Trump repeatedly promised to kill the Core, though the federal government can’t actually do that — it’s up to the states.
Killed once in Florida, the Core is being eliminated again by the new governor.