Common Core is here: What you need to know

Tampa, Florida -- "Common Core." "Florida Standards." As they bring changes to teaching in our schools this year, where did they come from and what do you need to know?

Just about every student in Florida will be learning math and language arts in new ways during this new school year.

Why are schools in the Tampa Bay area shifting the way they teach?

More than 40 states teamed up in 2010 to create the Common Core standards: demanding basics that every kid is expected to learn. They are rolling out this year in Florida schools.

After pushback and public hearings, Common Core has been tweaked in Tallahassee to become something all our own, called the Florida Standards. You can see all of the Florida Standards here.

In math, there may be one right answer, but there are a bunch of ways to get there. And that's one thing the Florida Standards focus on.

"Not just simply regurgitating information, but really understanding concepts," explained Diane Rottensteiner, who heads a team of tutors at North Tampa's Huntington Learning Center.

She says testing under Common Core and the Florida Standards will be less about "two-times-two," and more about real-life things like word problems and questions about showing your work.

What can kids and parents expect learning to be like with the Florida Standards? "Lots of critical reasoning. That means understanding and mastering information. Learning things inside-out," Rottensteiner said.

Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia is holding information sessions across her district for parents who want to know more, using a PowerPoint presentation that you can download here.

"Yes, there will be changes. And raising standards for students is a good thing," Elia said.

She says we need these fresh ideas about learning and new, higher standards. It's how we'll get our kids ready for real life and college -- and to compete against the world for jobs.

"You know, for over 200 years, we have been changing standards in this country to make sure that we reflect the needs that we have for students in college and career," Elia said.

"And it's important for us to continue to do that."

And if the sight of a new-style question makes your eyes cross, Hillsborough's superintendent says to ask teachers for some homework of your own. Get handouts or websites that can help you understand learning using Florida Standards so you can help your kids.

One place to look: Teachers in Hillsborough County are putting together Florida Standards videos on this Math Smarts YouTube channel that are grouped by grade level and specifically aim to get parents caught up on the "new" ways to learn what they learned differently years ago.

The Florida Standards will be the basis of new tests coming in the spring to replace the FCAT test. See how you do on a sample Florida Standards Assessment test that uses the new statewide standards.


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