The state of Florida has selected Hillsdale College to contribute to its public school learning standards for the second year in a row, the college announced in August. Hillsdale will work with the Florida Department of Education to review the state’s standards for civic education as well as its English language arts and mathematics curriculums.
Hillsdale began working with Florida in 2019 after the state passed a law that required its education commissioner to review instructional materials and testing specifications. Hillsdale College was one of six institutions and government organizations selected to consult on the project.
Much of the work in reviewing Florida’s curriculum has been headed up by the Barney Charter School Initiative, a project of Hillsdale College that promotes classical K‑12 education by establishing charter schools across America, including in Florida. “Hillsdale College and its Barney Charter School Initiative are leading the effort to prepare the men and women of this generation to again govern the American Republic according to the principles of liberty,” said Kevin Hoeft, education policy development director at the Florida Department of Education. “It is my confident hope that Florida’s revised civics education standards will contribute to this noble and essential work.”
The Barney Charter School Initiative had a team who worked on the project, composed of former teachers with experience in civics, government, and United States history. The primary contributors were Kathleen O’Toole, Hillsdale’s assistant provost for K‑12 education; Daniel O’Toole, who teaches U.S. Constitution at Hillsdale College and contributed to the initiative; and Jordan Adams, associate director of instructional resources. The team combed through each individual standard and provided reviews, feedback, and suggestions for improvement.
“What I really appreciated about what Florida was asking is that they really did want explanations of it,” Adams said. “They really wanted to learn and to have a conversation about it.”
The revised standards have not yet been finalized or implemented into public schools, but Hillsdale and the Florida Department of Education are looking forward to completing it. Florida is expected to finish its review of the civics standards by the end of 2020.
“I’m optimistic that if this is a good improvement that our advice will be heeded and will result in better civics standards for Florida,” Adams said.
O’Toole also expressed hopefulness about Florida’s efforts to improve its public education. She added that well-educated graduates make better citizens.
“Citizenship is more than just an attitude toward your country,” O’Toole said. “It also stems from having a deep knowledge of what this country is. The standards teach students that America is a country like no other. It’s a country that was founded on an idea, the idea that all men are created equal. And every American citizen should understand what that means and how unique that is.”