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It makes sense that Florida’s new K-12 math and language arts standards based on Common Core will mean changes for those classes.

But science, social studies – even gym classes – will also change when every grade starts using the standards this fall.

At Tampa’s Monroe Middle School, near MacDill Air Force base, science coach Janet Steuart said the standards are bringing changes to her classes too.

“There will be more emphasis on how you write in science,” Steuart said. “How you write with clarity. How you take a position; you defend it; you use evidence, pictures, text – whatever you have to defend it.”

Florida Common Core
Monroe Middle School science teacher Andrea Groves works with a student on a project. Common Core State Standards encourage more reading and writing in classes like science, social studies and physical education.

Common Core outlines what students should know in math and English classes at the end of each grade. The emphasis on writing is the third, embedded set of standards within Common Core – literacy.

Common Core calls for students to read and write more outside of language arts classes. And they should pull evidence from their assignments to support their work.

That might mean more non-fiction books or reading historical or technical documents in addition to close readings of classic novels or poetry.

Steuart says there’s this writing assignment as an example.

Common Core

This story is the third of a six-part series looking at how schools are preparing for the Common Core State Standards in Florida. It was produced in partnership with StateImpact Florida, a reporting project of NPR member stations.

Read the other stories in the series:

For transient, high-needs students, Florida teachers see Common Core as an anchor

In rural Florida, Common Core brings big changes to classrooms

“Defend the classification of the platypus as being a mammal,” she said. “What characteristics does it have that maybe it shouldn’t be? It lays eggs. So is there enough evidence that it should be a mammal or is there enough evidence that, no, we’ve got to revise that?”

For some districts the new emphasis on reading and writing will be a shock. A Common Core recommended reading list includes science texts about earthworms, the moon landing and Euclid’s treatise that is the basis of geometry.

But Hillsborough County schools have been adding reading and writing assignments to courses the past few years.

Seventh grade Civics teacher Tony Corbett says he’s not worried about completing the switch to the new standards next school year.

“It just gives us 10 things to focus on that we’ve already been focusing on,” Corbett said. “They’re already supposed to be able to summarize. They’re already supposed to have vocabulary. They’re already supposed to do main idea. They’re already supposed to do primary documents. And that’s pretty much what the focus of Common Core is.”

Common Core will even mean changes for physical education classes. Teachers might need to work in math and writing assignments.

Florida Common Core
Students turned soda bottles into rockets for a class assignment.

Some districts post vocabulary lists in the gym – or create math games.

It’s something Monroe Middle PE teacher Shane Knipple said he already does.

“We always try to integrate different subject areas as much as we can,” Knipple said. “A lot of science, and definitely a lot of math with scoring, counting and things of that nature.

Students running a mile outside on the track were calculating whether they were still on pace to finish in eight minutes.

Knipple said the changes Common Core will bring to PE classes are just good teaching.

“A lot of times in education they put things under different names when it’s something you’ve been doing all along,” he said. “True P.E. teachers that do what they’re supposed to do, I think we’re probably doing most of what we need to do already.

Monroe Middle gym teachers said they’ve been told more changes will happen over the next few years. But like teachers in other subjects, they’re confident they will be ready.

This story is part of a series looking at how Florida schools are preparing for Common Core standards. To check out the rest of the series, head to the StateImpact Florida and Hechinger Report websites.

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  1. If these teachers are already doing all of these things, then why (in general — I do not pretend to speak precisely to their schools specifically) are current results so bad? The United States is a very middling performer in science, when considered from an international perspective, and Florida is far from being one of our stellar states in the subjects that appear in the transcript. Are we to infer that Florida’s state schools’ provision is so impeccable that all of this money being spent bringing in these new standards systems will result in no improvements at all? Wouldn’t that appear to imply, therefore, that Florida’s pupils are just dense, incapable of learning much from their already outstanding schools?

    Or perhaps the tone recorded here of blase complacency found in these interviews is not representative of the Sunshine State’s teachers on the whole.

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