Mr. Andy Tuck
Florida State Board of Education
Dear Chair Tuck:
Florida has rightfully prided itself on continuous improvement in student performance and academic growth due in no small part to rigorous standards, fair assessments, and a culture of measurement and accountability. This mindset along with the leadership of the Florida Dept. of Education and school districts coupled with hard work and creativity by school administrators and teachers has yielded impressive results. In the years since this began 21 years ago with the “A+” plan Florida students have shown increases in national comparisons (NAEP scores), narrowed the achievement gap and raised its ranking compared to other states.
The education funders of the Florida Philanthropic Network have held as one of their key tenants (and areas of support) assuring that Florida students going through the K-12 system are prepared to be successful in their post-secondary education and careers. They recognize this as a strong investment in not only each youngster’s future, but the future economic wellbeing of the state. As you may recall from your time presenting to our group, this focus continues to influence the investments made by philanthropy in K-12 education.
“The State of the Sunshine State's Standards: The Florida B.E.S.T. Edition” was recently published by The Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute has been evaluating state academic standards since the late 1990s and recently undertook an outside evaluation of Florida’s new B.E.S.T. standards. The five co-authors of this study did a detailed analysis of the standards and comparison to other states’ standards recognized for their rigor. The report found many positives for the B.E.S.T. standards, including a confirmation that the stated priority to eliminate the Common Core State Standards from Florida’s standards was successful. However, it also found some deficiencies in the new standards including an apparent loss of rigor. Knowing the culture of high standards and accountability, we are certain this was not intended when efforts to revise the standards were undertaken.
We recognize that some would disagree with this research and we are aware of a conflicting report. However, standards cannot be a political issue. We believe that rigorous standards, fair student assessments, and accountability with the intent to improve student academic success are all our responsibility. FPN’s education funder’s primary educational concern is student success. This success is measured not only during their PreK-12 educational journeys, but as preparation for their successful post-secondary education and subsequent work careers. This is a valuable investment for the future economic vitality of the state of Florida.
We want you and your fellow board members as well as the Dept. of Education to know that the FPN education funders support your efforts to implement new standards which hold high expectations and lead to student success. We encourage the Florida State Board of Education to reflect on the new information provided by this report as it evaluates and potentially revises the B.E.S.T. standards with the goal of assuring they have a high degree of rigor and will provide the guidelines needed for student success.
William E. Hoffman
Interim President & CEO