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: http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/ or contact your local school system’s CTE Director http://data.fldoe.org/workforce/contacts/default.cfm?action=showList&ListID=8  or guidance department.

Florida Gets Flexibility Waiver From US Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education approved Florida’s request for a flexibility waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Florida was one of 11 states asking for flexibility with regard to accountability standards mandated by the No Child Left Behind legislation implemented in 2001. The state requested the waiver to be able to move to a single statewide accountability system that would eliminate duplicative regulation and make Florida’s system easier to understand.

 Florida is one of the first states to implement strong accountability measures for its schools. Overlaying a federal accountability system atop what was already in place and working in our state has proven to be confusing for parents and stakeholders. 

The flexibility waiver will strengthen the state’s ability to tailor its program to meet Florida’s unique educational needs and better align state and federal accountability systems into one cohesive, easy-to-understand structure.

Aligning our resources with our needs will lead to continued performance improvement for all students throughout Florida as we work to increase standards and boost national and international competitiveness. It is important to note, that approval of our request is but one step in a process required to move forward with the flexibility waiver. 

Florida applied for an ESEA waiver in mid-November 2011 and the U.S. Department of Education requested additional information in December. The State Board of Education will take action related to components of the waiver at its February meeting.

 More information on the ESEA waiver request is available at http://www.fldoe.org/esea/.