Better than Common Core: Florida’s New K-12 Standards Raise the Bar, Says New Report

The Independent Institute has published a briefing that vindicates Florida’s K-12 curriculum-content standards. A team of education policy experts demonstrates that Florida’s standards have particular strengths relative to their predecessor Common Core in areas such as knowledge acquisition and guidance for teachers. The guidelines actually offer a new gold standard that other states may well choose to emulate.

In the Spring of 2020, the Florida Department of Education announced its new state standards called “B.E.S.T.”, for Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. B.E.S.T. is a replacement for the Obama-era Common Core Standards in English and mathematics. The change came after Governor Ron DeSantis, who had vowed to “eliminate the Common Core from Florida schools,” issued a 2019 executive order to create new curriculum-content standards.

Such a switch was controversial, with academics and parents expressing concerns. A critical report published by the Fordham Institute even warned that the B.E.S.T standards “aren’t ready for prime time.”

The Independent Institute’s positive review was written by Ze’ev Wurman, former senior policy adviser with the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education; Dr. David Steiner, Executive Director, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy; with Dr. Ashley Berner, Deputy Director, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy; and Dr. James Milgram, emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University and one of the 23 members of the Common Core Validation Committee. Steiner is former commissioner of education for the State of New York and former dean of the school of education of Hunter College in New York City.

In their review of the English standards, Dr. David Steiner and Dr. Ashley Berner offer their recommendations for further improvement to the standards, while concluding, “In its essential elements, the B.E.S.T standards are the strongest standard in ELA currently in use in the United States” and “can stand as a new model for the country.” They note that many of the criticisms of the B.E.S.T Standards are simply mistaken about what is contained in the standards and discount their coherence.

In his review of the B.E.S.T. math standards, Dr. James Milgram praises them for their clarity and walks through several examples of effective mathematics questions.

The briefing in its entirety can be read here

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