Despite some of the growing resistance to Common Core State Standards in the public education arena, many private schools in Florida are voluntarily signing up to participate in statewide training.
“Private schools are always interested in what’s new and what’s cutting edge,’’ said Teri Logan of Independent Schools of South Florida, a group that represents about 70 accredited private schools.
She anticipates between 75 and 100 teachers and principals will take part in a workshop in October hosted by the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University, which developed an extensive database of learning standards called CPALMS (Collaborate Align Learn Motivate Share).
None of the schools have voiced concerns about the broader public debate on Common Core, but many have expressed a desire to learn more about the standards, she said.
CPALMS is an online system that offers free lesson plans, assessments and professional development – including workshops. Most of the work is aligned with the Common Core, but there also is information about Next Generation Sunshine Standards and others.
The database is available to all K-12 educators, including those outside of Florida, and is currently reaching about 1,700 users from 200 countries. Funding for the project comes from grants, including ones from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.
A separate site known as iCPALMS is accessible only to Florida educators, in public or private schools, and it has an estimated 50,000 users. Most are from the public sector, according to program director Rabieh Razzouk, but many private school educators also have contacted him.
The Common Core standards are a set of national benchmarks designed with added rigor to help students become more career and college ready. The National Governors Association and state education officials, with financial backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helped create the measures that have attracted support from education reformers and the Obama administration.
So far, 45 states, including Florida and the District of Columbia, have adopted the measures, though some states are reconsidering the move as criticism mounts against the Common Core. Opponents argue that the standards actually will hurt the development of critical-thinking skills, and many fear states will lose their autonomy and control over curriculum to the federal government.
“I don’t see a reason to panic,’’ said Lynn Wade, principal of the Florida College Academy near Tampa. “I see more opportunities for children to … get stronger.’’
Like many proponents of the Common Core, the former public school administrator sees an opportunity to elevate teaching and learning. “We always have to ask ourselves, ‘Is what I’m teaching in the best interest of students? Am I taking care of their needs?’’ he said.
The academy, with prekindergarten through middle school, won’t adopt every measure, Wade said. Instead, teachers will pick and choose which ones best serve their students – and they’ll know more about that after attending a CPALMS workshop that Wade will hold in the fall.
Catholic schools across the state are taking a similar tack, said James Herzog, associate director of education for the Florida Catholic Conference.
Herzog recently emailed Catholic schools superintendents, who are interested in taking part in the statewide training that begins this summer, letting them know they have access to the CPALMS database. (Some private school operators weren’t aware of the trainings.)
The Conference, which represents 237 Catholic schools, is meeting this week to discuss the standards and the recent backlash. But for now, Herzog said, Catholic schools appear to be “staying the course’’ with a plan to adopt a version of Common Core that also allows them to continue teaching their prayer, theology and faith.
For more information about CPALMS or to learn how to log into iCPALMS, contact Razzouk at (850) 694-1682 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.