TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The State Board of Education could consider changes to the state's standards for student learning as soon as February, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said Tuesday.
The changes could also result in a re-branding of sorts for what have until now been known as the "Common Core State Standards" -- part of a nationwide movement to set common education benchmarks that have angered conservative activists.
Stewart told the board at its meeting in Gainesville that nearly 19,000 comments had been received since Gov. Rick Scott ordered a fresh review of the standards in September. As part of that effort, three public hearings were held across Florida, and the state accepted comments online.
The Department of Education is working to reach an agreement with a Florida-based researcher to analyze the results of that outreach, with a report on the comments being released in January.
"I think that as we consider moving forward in rule development ... this will provide us the opportunity [so] that we can be moving along that direction with the public having the information available to them from those 19,000 comments," she said.
Common Core has become a political flashpoint in recent months, with tea party activists and others arguing that the standards amount to a federal intrusion in education, despite the fact that the development of the standards was spearheaded by governors and education officials.
The standards have been adopted in some form by almost four dozen states.
Stewart said a final draft of the benchmarks should be in front of the board by the spring, in February or March.
The new standards might also have a new name, said Joe Follick, a spokesman for the department. Given the input that the state has taken and the changes that are likely to be made, "it would be disingenuous to call them common core standards," he said.
Some supporters of the emerging benchmarks have begun referring to them as the "Florida standards."
But there is still resistance to the idea of any major overhaul of the guidelines, a pet project of former Gov. Jeb Bush. Kathleen Shanahan, a board member with close ties to Bush, pushed the board to consider teacher comments more heavily as it continues its review of Common Core.
Teachers at the public hearings were generally more support of the standards.
"Parents will be subjective, because they should be," said Shanahan, who is leaving the board at the end of the year. "Teachers will be objective because that's their role."
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, a onetime Republican running for his old job as a Democrat, told reporters Tuesday that he stands behind Common Core, which supporters say will allow greater comparison among states.
"I think in order to be able to have an opportunity on behalf of our children to see how we're doing, I think that those standards are appropriate," Crist said. " ... And I think this is a real opportunity where we can start moving together as a country and as a state."
Meanwhile, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents is pushing the state to delay the full implementation of the standards by up to three years. Currently, Common Core is only fully implemented in kindergarten, first and second grade, but is expected to be taught to all students next year after having been phased in.
Volusia County Superintendent Margaret Smith told the board going forward with a new test based on the standards, and then grading schools based on that test, was unfair -- particularly given the uncertainty currently surrounding them.
"It is not realistic to expect that we can fully have a full and quality implementation in all K-12 grade levels by next year," she said.