Eliminating Common Core, hidden inside our Florida Standards, and reducing the burdens associated with excessive standardized testing will be my top education priorities.

We need standards but they should be Florida Standards for Florida schools and students. Instead those words have been used to mask the compliance and alignment with the federal program known as Common Core. The state has a constitutional obligation to provide for the educational needs of every student but this obligation needs to be met working in partnership with local school boards, administrators, teachers and parents.

Common Core and other top down mandates from the federal government have resulted in a uniform, standardized model of mass schooling. This one-size-fits-all system destroys innovation and creativity at the local level. Teachers need to be empowered to use their knowledge, skill and creativity to insure that every child reaches their full educational potential.

The over reliance on standardized testing has created a toxic environment in our schools. It’s not only the number of tests students are required to take but also their high stakes nature that makes them so damaging. When teacher salaries, school funding and student grade promotions are all dependent on a test, it can change the dynamic in the classroom from one of learning and encouraging students to problem solve and develop critical thinking skills, to a system preoccupied with teaching students how to take a particular test, how best to answer test questions and how to move through the test faster. That’s not education. That’s a full year of test preparation with a little recess, some lunches and some PE thrown in.

We need an education policy that recognizes that there is no one way of teaching that will work for every student. Children learn in different ways and have different talents, needs, and interests. We need to expand school choice and vocational education so that every child is empowered to succeed.