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Looking ahead at public education: Standards to affect schools' practices

Districts say they're ready for 2013's challenges.

Dec. 31, 2012

Looking ahead

News-Press reporters are looking at some of the issues facing Southwest Florida in 2013 in week’s worth of stories. Go to for past stories.
Wednesday: Cape Coral and Collier County

Thursday: Fort Myers and Bonita Springs
Dec. 28: Environment
Dec. 29: Politics
Dec. 30: The county commission as people to watch; health issues
Dec. 31: Higher education


This year teachers and students will see many of the changes that were talked about in 2012.

Some issues, such as so-called Parent Trigger legislation, may come back to the forefront, but in most classrooms teachers will be integrating new Common Core State Standards curriculum and introducing a new statewide assessment.

Some issues Florida schools will have to contend with:


Teachers have been training on Common Core State Standards for the past year in preparation of the new advanced curriculum and better testing. Common Core standards are a set of educational benchmarks that will prepare students for college and careers.

For the 2013-14 school year, kindergarten through second-grade students will use Common Core.

Charlotte County Superintendent Doug Whittaker said kindergarten through third-grade students in his district have already moved to new curriculum.

We are in a transitional phase, and education is changing,” said Lee County School Board Chairwoman Mary Fischer. “We’ll see a lot more learning that is student-led and student driven.”

School finances

While the arrival of Common Core is a good thing, the price for implementing the new statewide assessment known as PARCC, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, could have an impact on school districts that are financially strapped, said MarkCastellano, president of the Teachers Association of Lee County.

“Implementation isn’t a bad thing,” Castellano said. “But the funding necessary to do it properly will fall short. That’s all part of it with PARCC. It’s very expensive to create a whole new system of tests and get people trained on it to do it properly.”

The challenges of unfunded mandates are going to be placed on school boards to figure out, Fischer said.

“Our budget is quite a bit less than several years ago,” she said.

In 2012, Gov. Rick Scott provided a $1 billion increase to schools, but that came after he signed into law a $1.3 billion reduction to school funding in 2011.

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Parent Trigger

Some education experts expect to see a return of Parent Trigger legislation in 2013.

Early in 2012, the controversial bill was narrowly defeated in the state Senate. The bill would allow parents to vote to close a consistently failing school, replace the principal or staff, or convert the school into a charter.

“What we expect is that some of the same bad stuff from last year will come back, as it always does,” said Castellano. “It never got out of committee before, and the governor said he wouldn’t push for it. But he didn’t say he would veto it if it would end up on his desk.”


In January, the state Department of Education is expected to release results on the effectiveness of teachers based on the new performance evaluation model.

Preliminary results showed that in Lee County, 96.9 percent of classroom teachers received an effective or highly effective rating. In Collier, 99.6 percent of classroom teachers performed effectively and 100 percent of Charlotte County performed the same, although no teachers in Charlotte received a highly effective rating. Teachers are ranked highly effective, effective, developing, needs improvement or unsatisfactory.

Teachers have begun being evaluated for this school year, and how they perform will help determine their salaries. By 2014, the evaluation model will be tied to performance or merit pay.

“That’s all going to be a work in progress,” Castellano said. “The evaluations and pay model are just getting under way.”

Lee County schools were awarded a two-year federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant of $17 million to provide bonuses to highly effective teachers in high-need subject areas or in schools with high poverty numbers or poor test scores.

There is an opportunity for the district to receive $45.2 million over a five-year period, but Castellano said he’s worried about what happens once the federal dollars run out.

“The state has already told us we’ll have to have this stuff in place,” he said. “But what happens when the funding is gone?”

Whittaker said the implementation of the teacher appraisal system has some growing pains, but it will have benefits for teachers as a model for improvement, instead of evaluation.

“This coming year it’s a focus on the roll out of Common Core and implementation of the teacher appraisal system,” Whittaker said. “And that’s enough.”

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