Open communication leads to productive conversations

During yesterday’s Education Listening Tour visits to Lexington Middle School and Madeira Beach Fundamental K-8 School, both teachers and parents were very open with Governor Scott.

Many attendees remarked on how comfortable his humble manner made them feel while voicing their concerns; they really felt like they were being heard. While discussing the education system and what improvements were needed, the Governor also asked for solutions. Many took advantage of the opportunity and provided great responses, while others wanted to do a bit more research and respond on the Governor’s website.

The parents and teachers of Lexington Middle School and Madeira Beach Fundamental had great ideas and are looking forward to increased communication with the State.

Great Discussions at Boca Raton High School

Governor Rick Scott and the Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality, Kathy Hebda participated in the 9/11 Commemoration ceremony at Boca Raton High School, and Governor Scott recounted his personal experiences on that day.  The school’s JROTC and chorus provided a moving and dignified memorial to those who died and those who lost loved ones that day.

After the ceremony, Governor Scott and Kathy met with students, teachers, and parents to discuss the rising cost of college tuition. During the discussion, a teacher referred to the cost of text books that are paid by the district and how much the same books cost online.

Teachers affirmed that they want to be sure that they are evaluated fairly and that student progress and their unique rates of learning are taken into account.

The Governor asked for input on how we could improve evaluation systems and how teachers’ work could be measured.  When asked how he applied measurement in the medical field, the Governor gave great examples of how doctors’ mortality rates and other expectations with regard to patients were measured taking into account the illness of the patient and other factors.

The Governor stressed that he was looking for good ideas and solutions to improve the education system in Florida.

Industry and Education Leaders Honored for their Commitment to Career and Technical Education

Guest blog post by the Division of Career and Adult Education Chancellor Rod Duckworth.

The state’s top industry and education leaders in career and technical education (CTE) were honored last week at an awards luncheon as part of the Florida Association of Career and Technical Education’s (FACTE) 46th Annual Summer Conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The FACTE conference provided career and technical educators from across the state the opportunity to participate in professional development activities, share best practices about career and technical education, and develop and discuss strategies in response to industry needs to better train the state’s workforce.  During the preconference day, the Division hosted half day workshops for new CTE teachers and administrators that focused on components of a quality CTE program, state and federal legislation, and the implementation of Common Core State Standards into CTE curriculum frameworks.

Florida is fortunate to have a wide variety of programs geared toward preparing students for college and a career. A well-trained and educated workforce is essential to strengthen and expand Florida’s economy. It was an honor to recognize Florida’s career and technical education leaders for their dedication to the state’s students and future workforce.

The winners of the 2012 FACTE awards are below.

President’s Award
Ann Perry Davis, an agriculture teacher in Marion County, was recognized for her successful Future Farmers of America community service project.

Hall of Fame
Loretta Costin, former Florida Department of  Education Chief of Staff and Career and Adult Education Chancellor, was recognized for her work over many years in adult, career and technical education.

Hall of Fame
The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association was recognized for developing the state’s first industry certification program for an agriscience program.

Carl Proehl Award
Rob Aguis, the director of career and technical education in Pasco County, was recognized for being an administrative leader in FACTE.

Joe Mills Career Excellence Award
Libby Essa-Living was recognized for her many years working for Indian River State College and providing state and national level leadership in developing career pathways.

Carl Perkins Humanitarian Award
Tresa Warner, director of the iMAGINATION Career Academy at Lake Region High School in Polk County and Adjunct Professor at Polk State College, was recognized for serving on the DECA Board of Directors and her work as a DECA District Advisor.

Rookie Award
Chad Lyons, an agriculture teacher at Lafayette High School in Lafayette County, was recognized for his enthusiasm and his ability to guide students to academic success.

Walter Clausen Award
Mary Mott, Director of Industry Certifications and Career Development for the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, was recognized for being instrumental in the development of a horticulture certification program for nursery workers and for providing professional development for educators.

FACTE Student Award
Veronica Herr, a Culinary Arts student, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship for her high academic achievement and volunteer activities. She is dual enrolled at Santa Fe College and a member of the National Thespian and Math Honor Society.

Outstanding Student Awards

Outstanding Secondary Student of the Year – Jeb McLendan, a graduate of Middleburg High School in Clay County, was enrolled in the school’s Academy of Agriscience and Construction and was honored for his active membership in Future Farmers of America, Skills USA, and the National Technical Honor Society.

Outstanding Postsecondary Student of the Year – Sarah Trimm earned her Associate of Arts degree while dual-enrolled at Bronson High School in Levy County. She was recognized for being an active member of Future Farmers of America and for being a student athlete. Sarah has since graduated and is attending the University of Florida.

For more information about adult and career education in Florida, visit For information about FACTE, visit

Statement By Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson Regarding Proposed Changes to Florida’s School Grading System

Florida has worked very hard for more than a decade to implement and support ground-breaking education reform and I am extremely proud of our successes. As we move toward a new age of education for Florida’s children, it is important to recognize our triumphs and build upon our hopes for the future of public education.

The proposed changes to our school grading system are not only necessary to continue on the path of intelligent reform, but they will help ensure that Florida is prepared to compete on a global level. Under our current school grading system, it is possible for a school to receive an ‘A’ grade when three out of four students cannot meet Florida’s grade-level standards for reading. This is unacceptable.

We need an education system for Florida that is exceptional, not merely acceptable. It is my goal to ensure that every student has the opportunity to be counted and to experience world-class public education. These proposed changes are the result of important discussion and contributions made by all stakeholder groups including superintendents, educators, and experts across the state. And this is not a week-old discussion. The Florida Department of Education has been discussing school grade changes with stakeholders since May 2011.

There has been a great deal of conversation about the proposed changes and I believe strongly that talking about the future of education in our state is healthy. In this instance, I think it is important to understand that much of the discussion is based on estimates, not concrete projections. We have created many school grade simulations using various scenarios to illustrate the potential impact of proposed changes. One simulation, for example, includes grading all schools that serve students with disabilities; however, we are reviewing alternative options for schools that serve only these students.

 I want to assure the citizens of Florida that I will consider all of the viable options as I review the valuable feedback received regarding the proposed state board rule changes to our school grading system. This feedback will be part of our healthy conversation as the State Board considers these proposals at their meeting on February 28, in Tallahassee.

February is National Career and Technical Education Month!

Guest blog by Career and Adult Education Interim Chancellor Kathleen Taylor

Florida’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have changed significantly from the days when boys took wood shop and girls took home economics.  Today, there are more than 500,000 secondary and postsecondary students enrolled in diverse CTE programs across our state ranging from Multimedia Design to Robotics to Biomedical Sciences.

 CTE gives students a head start on college and careers in high-skill, high-wage and high-demand occupations organized in 18 different Career Clusters including programs in Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Architecture and Construction; Arts; A/V Technology and Communications; Business; Management and Administration’ Education and Training; Energy; Engineering and Technology Education; Finance; Government and Public Administration; Health Science; Hospitality and Tourism; Human Services; Law; Public Safety, Corrections  and Security; Manufacturing;  Marketing; Sales and Service; Science, Technology, Engineering andMathematics (STEM); and Transportation, Distribution and Logistics. 

 It is no secret that students completing both the academic requirements and a CTE program have the advantage of graduating from high school prepared for college and the workplace.  Additionally, research indicates that curriculum that shows how academic knowledge and skills are used in the world of work may motivate more students to persevere in the academic courses that prepare them for college and answer the question so many students ask: “When will I ever use this?”  In essence, CTE programs are the laboratory for algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry and other critical subject areas. 

 In addition, many CTE programs afford students the opportunity to earn specific industry certifications that document the student’s achievement of industry standards based on industry-created assessments. More than 100 industry certifications have statewide articulation agreements with Florida’s state colleges, which guarantee credit toward a related Associate in Science Degree. 

 CTE programs are available at secondary schools in all 67 school districts, all 28 colleges in The Florida College System, and at 46 technical centers within the state.  To learn about specific programs visit the DOE state website at: or contact your local school system’s CTE Director  or guidance department.

Commissioner Robinson talks about updates on FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course exams

Commissioner Robinson’s recent media briefing about FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course Exams. Includes a Q&A with the media.

Also check out the commissioner’s radio interviews on FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course Exams on WJCT and WFLA

More info can be found on our FCAT site.


Curling up with a good book

First Lady Ann Scott shares a special holiday message and reads passage from Polar Express

What are your plans for the holiday break? Visiting with family, eating good food, playing games, and celebrating the holidays are on my list, but I also plan to curl up with a good book.

Days off from school and work are great times to read books by yourself and with your family. We have a great list of books for children on our Holiday Reading List. Do you see any of your favorites on there? What other holiday books do you enjoy reading?

Happy holidays!

Providing Services to All Floridians: A first-hand encounter

Guest post by Rep. Betty Reed, Ranking Democratic Member of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee in the Florida House of Representatives

Even as we continue to tighten our belts, there are many projects the Legislature always tries to approve. One of these areas includes persons with visual impairments.

I had the pleasure last week to visit the DOE Division of Blind Service’s Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library, and the Conklin Center for the Blind.

At the Center, I visited the Independent Living, Technology, Business Enterprise, and Orientation and Mobility classes. The students were engaged, accomplished, and driven to succeed not only personally, but also professionally. Many are well on their way to starting their own businesses and the majority are self-sufficient. 

I had heard much about the Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library and was excited to see the studio and live book recordings first-hand. The resources were expansive, with more than 2.4 million items in Braille and auto format. And the facility is well-used, providing services to almost 32,000 Floridians who cannot used standard print reading materials as a result of visual, physical or reading disability.

My last stop at the Conklin Center for the Blind, a facility that DOE’s Division of Blind Services works closely with, also made a positive impression on me. The Center provides services to visually impaired or blind Adults ages 18 and above. 

The trip strongly confirmed my support of DOE’s efforts to provide services to all Floridians. I was impressed by the valuable services they provide and will continue to support them through my work in the Legislature.

Have you or any of your friends or family members ever used any of these services and/or facilities?

Tomorrow the Higher Education Coordinating Council, which I am a member of, will meet to discuss the fifth draft of our recommendations to the legislature. In preparation for the meeting, I welcome your feedback in the comment section below, or feel free to contact me personally at

Getting to a 98 percent passing rate

Guest post by DOE Director of Faith and Community Outreach Joyce Hobson

You always hear a lot about how parents should be involved with their children’s education, but how do you measure the effectiveness of involvement?

Tired of sitting in formal, tense parent-teacher conferences, Ms. Donna Harla of Landmark Middle School in Duval County has figured out one way.

Through the Parent Collaboration Program she created, teachers designate 30 minutes every Friday for parents to stop by the classroom. The initiative avoids lengthy scheduling processes between parents, teachers and administrators and increases parents’ access to their child’s education, which allows relationships to build.

Since the initiation of the program in 2008, she has seen a 98 percent passing rate amongst her students.

This is just one of the many efforts going on around the state to increase the communication between parents and teachers. It is the little things – knowing what is going on at the schools, talking about homework policies and lesson plans, meeting other students and teachers in the school, becoming a familiar face – that break down communication barriers.

Does your student’s school have any parental involvement programs? Do you volunteer in your child’s class or attend events? How do you show your support for your student? Please feel free to share!

Students’ Return on Investment

The Department of Education serves as a data repository for a variety of information allowing us to track student performance across time and in varying education sectors. Starting this month, the Department will embark upon a joint project with the Florida Council of 100 to determine the state’s return on investment for students attending various postsecondary educational institutions. The goal of this project is to track graduates of Florida’s public schools as they transition from colleges and universities into the workforce. The data analysis will examine the various jobs and wages these students obtain and compare them with the state’s costs of providing those same students with the postsecondary training and education they received within our education system. This unique opportunity will pull from existing data sources including the Department’s Education Data Warehouse as well as the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program (FETPIP).