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Florida’s B.E.S.T.: Here’s what’s next for the state’s new educational standard

New standard promotes ‘back-to-basics’ approach

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida students will now have to adjust to new education standards in the classroom.

The State Board of Education formally adopted the Benchmark for Excellent Student Thinking Wednesday, replacing the previous curriculum known as Common Core. after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order last year to eliminate it. He calls Florida’s B.E.S.T. standards “a great next step for students, teachers and parents,” according to a governor’s office news release.

“Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards were made by Florida teachers for Florida students. I know they will be a model for the rest of the nation,” the statement reads.

[RELATED: Florida State Board of Education formally signed off end of Common Core | What is Common Core, how will Gov. DeSantis’ new order change it?]

Though the state has adopted the proposed standard, school districts will gradually adopt the new testing system. Here’s what you need to know about the transition period.

What is B.E.S.T.?

This new standard was created by Florida experts, according to the Florida Department of Education’s website. More than 80 Florida-based teachers and stakeholder groups were involved in creating the new educational standard.

B.E.S.T. will have a specific focus on English and math. The new educational standard is touting clear and concise expectations for students, teachers and parents, including an elaborate reading list and when students will be learning specific math topics throughout the year. Creators of the standard say that leaves little room for misunderstanding and creating a successful road map for students, including benchmarks for those who may not be on reading level or whose math skills may not be where expected.

B.E.S.T. will assess students with short standardized tests. Some of its curriculum for high school students is focused on national standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. The state will also offer to pay for every high school junior to take the SAT or ACT until at least 2022.

English Language Arts Standards

In terms of English, B.E.S.T. will focus on reading skills as opposed to content. It will include content-rich text with an emphasis on classic literature, providing the opportunity to assess a child’s ability to understand the full concept of a story, put character development into context and learn about structure. It will have an analytical approach with the goal for children to have a good grasp of reading skills.

According to Florida’s B.E.S.T. standard for English, the benchmarks emphasize that literacy is not achievable merely through a skill-based approach. In the early grades, students will focus on the meanings of words and decoding skills so students can learn new words through systematic phonics instruction. These skills will assist with their reading comprehension as they advance to the next grade level. The goal is for students to learn from every major literary period throughout their schooling.

B.E.S.T. is the first educational standard in the nation with a civics book list included in its English Language Arts curriculum. Students will study American history-focused work such as “Vote!” by Eileen Christelow and landmark Supreme Court cases. Students will be introduced to the U.S. Constitution in the fourth or fifth grades to help them use their reading comprehension skills to become more civically aware, building upon their knowledge of the country throughout the B.E.S.T. standard.

Read more about the ELA standards here.

[RELATED: Here’s how your student will be affected by the removal of Common Core in Florida schools]

Math

The new B.E.S.T. standards for math were based on a practical approach and usefulness of content. The standards break down changes into three categories: simplicity, practicality and specificity.

There will be less emphasis on how students use multiple strategies, meaning examinations will not deduct points for the method used as long as the answer is correct, simplifying the process for teachers and allowing students the flexibility to adjust their problem-solving strategies.

In terms of practicality, there will now be a balanced emphasis on skills versus concepts, which will help keep struggling students from falling behind, according to the Florida Department of Education’s website. The new standards also include financial literacy throughout high school and emphasize how various mathematical topics connect from grade to grade.

Read more about the math standards here.

The Florida Department of Education has approved Common Core's replacement: Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking.
The Florida Department of Education has approved Common Core's replacement: Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. (WKMG 2020)

Next steps

The Florida State Board of Education has already completed the first step by adopting the B.E.S.T. standard package and replacing the Common Core curriculum. The governor’s proposed budget also includes more funds to support teachers across the state.

From 2020-2021, districts will have time to start familiarizing their teachers with the new benchmarks and retool themselves to discuss these major changes. From 2021-2022, curriculum will be updated and the following school year, state educational leaders will focus on adjusting the math curriculum and complete assessments.

After 2023, the state plans to roll out B.E.S.T., giving districts approximately three years to purchase new books and textbooks.

Districts have the option to utilize B.E.S.T. sooner if they wish.

To see how Central Florida school districts are handling the new standards, click here.


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