It’s official: Florida is moving away from the Common Core State Standards.

On February 12, 2020, the state’s Department of Education adopted the Florida Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards, a new system for measuring student development. These rigorous standards, which heavily focus on mathematics and English language arts skills, are designed to prepare students for success in college and beyond.

Florida’s Department of Education plans to roll out the B.E.S.T. Standards across public schools in stages, beginning with professional development for teachers in the 2020-2021 school year. By 2023, the state hopes to adopt the standards in full.

How will these changes affect the English language arts curriculum in Florida’s public schools? Let’s take a closer look!

The Florida B.E.S.T. Standards for English Language Arts

At its core, the Florida B.E.S.T. Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) are intended to promote literacy by prioritizing the basics of reading and writing. They were built on the following premises:

  • English language arts is not a discrete set of skills, but a rich discipline with meaningful, significant content, the knowledge of which helps all students actively and fully participate in our society.
  • The standards are clear and concise so they are easily understood by all stakeholders, including parents and teachers.
  • The texts students read are meaningful and thought-provoking, preparing them to be informed, civic-minded members of their community.
  • Standards should not stand alone as a separate focus for instruction, but should be combined purposefully.

There are six expectations that are embedded within the standards. These are the overarching skills that students are expected to develop over the course of their ELA education:

ELA.K12.EE.1.1 Cite evidence to explain and justify reasoning
ELA.K12.EE.2.1 Read and comprehend grade-level complex texts proficiently
ELA.K12.EE.3.1 Make inferences to support comprehension
ELA.K12.EE.4.1 Use appropriate collaborative techniques and active listening skills when engaging in discussions in a variety of situations
ELA.K12.EE.5.1 Use the accepted rules governing a specific format to create quality work
ELA.K12.EE.6.1 Use appropriate voice and tone when speaking or writing

The mastery standards represent the skills students should master by the end of each grade. They are divided into four strands: Foundations, Reading, Communication, and Vocabulary.

Foundations This strand has been adapted to meet the needs of the traditional beginning reader and expanded to include remediation for secondary students who are not yet proficient readers.
Reading This strand is divided into three standards: reading prose and poetry, reading informational text, and reading across genres.
Communication This strand is divided into five standards: communicating through writing, communicating orally, following conventions, researching, and creating and collaborating.
Vocabulary This strand consists of one standard: finding meaning. Vocabulary is a building block of knowledge and essential to a thorough understanding of a text.

To build proficiency, students will continue to review and apply earlier grade-level benchmarks and expectations throughout their academic careers. If any skills aren’t mastered, students will be given instruction and practice opportunities to address skill gaps from previous grades.

Key English Language Arts Curriculum Changes

Incorporating Morphology into Vocabulary Study

Beginning in 3rd grade, students are now expected to identify and apply knowledge of common Greek and Latin roots alongside base words and affixes to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. These skills are further developed in 9th grade, where students are asked to use their understanding of etymology and derivations to decipher the meanings of words and phrases.

Our etymology-based vocabulary programs, Growing Your Vocabulary for grades 4-6 and Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots for grades 7-12, have what you need to strengthen your students’ knowledge of word roots. Free sample pages are available for each program.

Introducing Rhetoric in 6th Grade

Previously, under the Common Core State Standards, students were introduced to rhetoric in 9th grade. Now, students will learn about rhetoric starting in 6th grade. This change was made to promote students’ understanding of argumentative language, reasoning, and debate earlier in their education career.

To help your students meet these new rhetoric expectations, we recommend two of our writing programs, Rhetorical Devices and Rhetoric, Logic, & Argumentation. You can download free sample pages for each program on their corresponding pages.

Replacing State Tests with the SAT or ACT

The Florida B.E.S.T. Standards mandate that most state standardized tests in the secondary grades will be replaced with the SAT and/or the ACT. In addition, taking the SAT or ACT will now become a high school graduation requirement, although students do not need to receive a passing grade to graduate. Students in 11th grade will be eligible to take the tests for free.

To help your students prepare for this new test day, why not give SAT Power Prep a try? Designed specifically for English classrooms, this complete course comes loaded with resources, including SAT-style reading passages and questions designed to familiarize students with the formatting of the test. You can find free sample pages here.

Embed Civic Literacy in English Language Arts

To help students develop into civically engaged and well-informed adults, civics are now a major part of the ELA curriculum under the B.E.S.T. Standards. Throughout their academic career, students are required to study important historical texts, including foundational American documents like the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Here are a few of the recommended civic literacy selections for grades 6-12:

Civics Grades 6-8

Civics Grades 9-12

For further civics study, consider adding Essential American Documents and Speeches: Volume One and Essential American Documents and Speeches: Volume Two to your classroom library. Each of these paperbacks contains significant nonfiction texts that represent the breadth of American philosophy from the nation’s founding to the present day. Free sample pages are available for both volumes.

Established Reading Lists for Grades K-12

While teachers can still select from books that they love to teach, the state has provided a list of recommendations chosen to align with the reading expectations of each strand at each grade level. These suggested texts come from many literary periods and cover a host of genres, including classic literature, folktales, poetry, essays, speeches, satire, memoirs, and plays.

Here are a few of the recommended reading selections for grades 7-12:

7th Grade

8th Grade

9th Grade

10th Grade

11th Grade

12th Grade

You can view the entire reading sample list for grades K-12 within the B.E.S.T. Standards: English Language Arts document.

Get the Details

To learn all about the new Florida B.E.S.T. Standards, check out the following links to the Florida Department of Education’s Standards portal:

If you’re looking for ELA programs and materials that align with the new B.E.S.T. Standards, please reach out to us at Prestwick House by calling our customer service team at 1-800-932-4593 or by sending an email to As always, we’re happy to help you!