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Transition to Common Core putting pressure on students

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Updated: 10/22/2013 12:22 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Parents of some Duval County students tell Action News their kids are feeling increased pressure at school, brought on by frequent testing and more homework.

Students in kindergarten through second grade are already following new national standards, called Common Core, that were adopted by the state in 2010, but older students are in a period of transition as schools across the state continue to conform to Sunshine State Standards as well as Common Core.

"Right now we're living in a blended model," says Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent for Duval County Schools, during a panel discussion Monday to help explain changes due to the new standards.

Vitti says local schools are trying to prepare for FCAT 2.0, which tests students on the current state standards, all while moving to the national, Common Core which will put them in line with 45 other states which have also adopted the model.

"The standards are really specific to what I need to teach my students," says Literacy Specialist Robyn White.

White believes Common Core standards will eventually make things easier by taking the guesswork out of what her students should know by the end of the year.

"Common Core is the what, but how I get there is for me and the district to decide."

But what's not clear, Vitti says, is how students will be tested for Common Core standards next year.

In September, Governor Rick Scott opposed adopting a test that is currently being used by 18 other states, citing federal intrusion. He then asked state educational leaders to prepare a report on alternative testing ideas based on feedback from parents and students across the state.

Vitti says he needs to know the state's plan for assessment within the next month in order to prepare a curriculum and direct teachers on how to to be effective next year under Common Core, but his work is on hold until the state makes a decision.

"The longer we delay, it puts much more burden on districts to align the curriculum with Common Core standards, but more importantly to align our assessments with what they would look like at the end of 2014."

Vitti says he does not support an assessment that is specific only to the state of Florida.

"That means we made a change just for the sake of making change. We need a way to compare with national standards, or more importantly international standards, and a test just for us does not accomplish that."

Vitti believes the state will move toward an online test next year to keep costs low, and that the amount of testing will not increase much, if at all, in the future because of Common Core.

The state Board of Education's report is expected to be filed with the Governor's office in late 2013 or early 2014.
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