Florida Governor Alters The Plan For Common Core

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that the state is dropping out as fiscal agent for an organization developing tests for Common Core, the new educational standards. Scott, a Republican facing re-election next year, says he agrees with many of his Tea Party supporters who want the state to drop it entirely.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. Support for nationwide education standards known as the Common Core received another setback today. Florida's governor announced that his state is stepping back from its role as one of the leaders of the effort. Rick Scott, who faces re-election next year, says Florida will no longer serve as the fiscal agent for a group of states developing tests to measure student achievement.

As NPR's Greg Allen reports from Miami, Scott also says Florida will re-evaluate its commitment to the standards themselves.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Common Core began with a group of states and their governors, who wanted to improve the performance of American students. Some 45 states agreed on the standards, and adopted them three years ago. Now, states are working to develop a set of tests that will measure how well students are doing with the new standards.

Florida has been a key participant in one effort called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC - that is, until today. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart made the announcement in a conference call with reporters.

PAM STEWART: We will be moving forward on withdrawing our responsibility as PARCC fiscal agent.

ALLEN: Under former governors Jeb Bush and then Charlie Crist, Florida has been a leader in the state movement to develop nationwide standards, and to test students on them. But more recently in Florida and nationwide, conservative and Tea Party groups have been working to stop states from using Common Core and its tests. Today, Gov. Scott announced he's going not with his predecessors, but with the Tea Party.

Scott asked the head of the state's board of education to end Florida's role as fiscal agent for PARCC. In a press release, he went further, saying he wants to pull out of the group altogether. And he called for a series of public hearings on Common Core; hearings he said would examine, quote, "risks for federal intrusion in Florida's standards."

CHAD COLBY: Three was no federal involvement in developing the standards. There was no federal money in developing the standards.

ALLEN: Chad Colby is with PARCC. He says while no federal money helped create Common Core, the Department of Education did supply a $186 million grant to help develop the new tests. With Florida's withdrawal as fiscal agent, a new state will be chosen to administer the grant. And Colby expects the tests to be ready on schedule next spring.

Asked about what's changed since Common Core was first developed, Colby says it's the politics. Anti-government fervor has proved to be a potent strain, especially among Tea Party groups that form an important part of Gov. Scott's Republican base.

Speaking last week in Washington, Florida's former governor Jeb Bush called on elected leaders to rise above politics.

JEB BUSH: If you think that the standards of Florida, or any other state, are acceptable in a world that is incredibly competitive, that you want to benchmark yourself to mediocrity? Or do you want to benchmark yourself to the best in the world? If you're comfortable with mediocrity, fine. I'm not.

ALLEN: Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says Florida may end up choosing the PARCC tests, or go with a private contractor. Either way, she says, she expects the state will have some tests ready to go by next spring.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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