Watch: Common Core Spurs Hope, Fear for a Miami Principal
Bridget McKinney is the third-year principal of Miami's Allapattah Middle School, where 95 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals and which has been labeled a D or F school under Florida's A-F accountability system for the last four school years. Migrant children from Central America have caused the school's English-language learner population to swell from 83 last year to 138 this year, in a school with just over 500 students.
So how does she see the Common Core State Standards, along with forthcoming state tests, playing out in her school? She's not frustrated with the standards themselves; it's a host of other state policies, and a dearth of resources, that have her on edge.
Take the A-F accountability system, which this year will be based on new exams more closely aligned to the common core than the state's prior assessments. In the 2014-15 school year, schools won't face consequences for their grades in the A-F system. The state also relaxed certain A-F rules for the 2013-14 year. Those are the kinds of reprieves that most, if not all, principals would welcome. But McKinney told me that they don't really help the perception of her school in the community.
Watch her explain her trepidations, as well as her support, for the common core itself, in the video below:
"Every single year, the accountability system is different," she said. "Every single year, there's a different rationale."
Then there is the issue of resources—remember, education spending has been perhaps the most prominent K-12 issue in the Florida gubernatorial campaign. With the number of digital devices she has, McKinney said it takes her three days, using three morning and three afternoon shifts on computers, to test just her 6th grade students in math. She's also not sure how much test scores will be affected if students end up taking the tests on a variety of devices.
Asked about the level of support from the state for the common core, McKinney said she wished lawmakers were more connected to "being in the trenches" in schools as the standards have been implemented: "Roll out something so that the kids will be able to do it," she said.