Comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges

Guest post by Deputy Chancellor for Curriculum, Instruction, and Student Services Mary Jane Tappen

Finding a way to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, Florida, along with more than 40 other states, has adopted the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and language arts. These new standards are a way to increase the rigor of our curriculum standards and accurately compare the academic performance of our students with their peers throughout the nation.

In the past, each state set their own standards, which essentially meant that students throughout the country were being taught different things, with no clear measure of difficulty or expectation of college and career readiness. Adopting the Common Core allows us to equalize the conversation and put all students on a path to success in our competitive global economy.

By 2015, Florida will have these standards implemented in our classrooms, so these next few years will be critical in providing our teachers with the necessary tools to teach the new content to our students.

Along with teachers and other education experts, parents across the nation were also instrumental in creating these standards. In fact, the Parent Teacher Association has devised The Parents’ Guide to Student Success to address Common Core. This guide includes activities that parents can use at home to help their students with their studies and provides tips for building stronger relationships with your child’s teacher.

At the DOE, our Teacher Liaison Kelly Seay is a huge advocate for parental involvement. She recently created a podcast that encourages parents and teachers to work together to nurture learning, and showcases specific groups throughout Florida that are also available to help. Check it out!

How do you work with your child to ensure they are prepared for their classes? From helping Kindergarteners identify upper-and lower-case letters, to talking with your high schooler’s guidance counselor, all of these learning moments are important.

We’d love to hear your tips on how you work with your child to encourage learning at home. Share your ideas here!

Exceptional Teachers for Exceptional Students

Guest post from Bambi J. Lockman, LL.D

Chief, Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (BEESS)

Congratulations to Prekindergarten Exceptional Student Education Teacher Belinda Nease of Southside Elementary School in Nassau County  on being named a Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year finalist!

“I am a teacher.  It is as much a part of me as the air I breathe,” states Ms. Nease, who helps her students maximize their potential in spite of the physical, academic or emotional barriers they face.  She turns every situation, in and out of the classroom, into a learning opportunity and takes advantage of available programs and techniques, both high and low tech.

Just a few examples – Ms. Nease initiated the use of a program at Southside that changes the brain’s pathways, increases processing skills and impacts reading ability in a short period of time.

On the low-tech side, but equally as effective, she uses mentoring as a tool to foster positive relationships to help her students learn.  Southside’s second graders spend time with and assist her pre-K students and both groups benefit from the process. 

I am so thankful for the efforts of Ms. Nease and of all Florida teachers who work tirelessly to ensure that all of our children learn. I wish Belinda Nease, and all of the other finalists, the best of luck and look forward to the Teacher of the Year announcement in July!

Summer Literacy

Guest post by Stuart Greenberg, Just Read, Florida! executive director 

School may be out, but literacy is always in. Here at the Florida Department of Education, we continue to focus our energy on reading and literacy. Studies show that when students continue reading during the summer, they are able to maintain their academic focus when school starts back up in the fall.

To help us with our campaign of encouraging reading and literacy in all that we do, we rely on great literacy leaders throughout our state. Take for instance Lora McCalister-Cruel, a literacy coach at A. Crawford Mosley High School in Bay County, who was named as one of five finalist to compete for the 2012 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Award. Her exceptional work inBayCounty has undoubtedly helped her students achieve at higher levels than ever before – and she makes it fun.

Another exceptional leader who has imparted her passion for all things literature is the state’s First Lady – Mrs. Ann Scott. With her support, the Department, along with many other literacy support organizations have been able to tout the wonderful work being done in Florida to ensure our students are reading and learning.

Just a few weeks ago Mrs. Scott kicked off her Summer Literacy Adventure, a program that encourages students to pledge to read and visit their local public libraries. Students interested in participating in the Summer Literacy Adventure can visit the Just Read, Florida! website to take the pledge. The higher the percentage of students taking the pledge at a school the higher their chances are of receiving a special visit from Mrs. Scott and earning a one-day pass for students and faculty to any Florida State Park.

There are tons of resources available to help you find a great book or to encourage more reading in everyday life. Check out some of the tools below: 

  • Find-A-Book, Florida: This is a free online tool that allows students to search for books based on their reading ability and interests. The tool, offered courtesy of MetaMetrics, uses Lexile® measures, a widely adopted reading metric that can guide a reader to an appropriate level book. 
  • Recommended Summer Reading List: The DOE’s Just Read, Florida! Office offers a Recommended Summer Reading List and other valuable reading and literacy resources for students and families.
  •  Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida: This is still a ways off, but every year the Department celebrates literacy in January. Next year’s dates are Jan. 23-27, 2012. More info will be available soon on the website.
  • Literacy League: This podcast project is designed to make reading interactive and fun for Florida’s middle school students. The club is open to all students in grades 6-8 as a way to support and encourage a love of reading by giving students an opportunity to connect with their favorite authors. Students submit questions, which are answered via podcast by the author. Visit the website for past podcast recordings and upcoming book selections. 

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more information on any of these initiatives. I encourage you to read this summer and enjoy the hot days ahead with a great book!