Fort Walton Beach High School Visit

Today Governor Scott and I met with Principal Couvillon of Fort Walton Beach High School to kick off our Education Listening Tour visit. Although the weather was less than desirable, the teachers and students were very excited and welcomed us to their school.

We met with approximately 20 teachers in two groups and discussed their thoughts on accountability.  While they agree with measurement and accountability, they want to be sure it is as fair as possible.

They also expressed concern over the testing window and while they understand that it is necessary in order to have time to get all students on the computer for testing; they expressed frustration at having to get standards taught as much as six weeks before school is out.

After meeting with teachers, we visited an American government class where several students asked very thoughtful questions about education, funding, and jobs.

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.

Pinedale Elementary has P-A-N-D-A Pride!

It was great visiting with the teachers, parents, and students of Pinedale Elementary, “Home of the Pandas,” in Jacksonville, Fla. Governor Scott and I had the opportunity to hear from several teachers who were able to share their thoughts and ideas openly on improving Florida’s education system.

Shortly after our teacher meeting, we toured the afterschool program that serves more than 150 students. Whether the children were participating in activities, reading a book, or finishing up homework, it was clear that the students of Pinedale Elementary had a strong support system behind them motivating them to be successful.

As our afternoon at Pinedale began to come to a close, we sat down and spoke with a group of parents. After only a few minutes of discussion, I noticed how much these parents loved their students. I could hear the passion in their voices; these parents want what is best for the students of Pinedale Elementary and are great advocates for this school.

This was such an inspiring event and I can’t wait to continue this tour with Governor Rick Scott.

Message from Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart

Welcome, readers!  It is truly an honor for me to serve as your Commissioner of Education.

Much of my adult life has focused on education. Whether serving as a teacher, guidance counselor, principal, deputy superintendent, or Chancellor of Public Schools, I believe that every student has the right to a quality education.

During my 32 year career in Florida’s public school system, my driving force has been student success. Education is a fundamental component of our economy and we need to adapt constantly to meet the demands of our society. It is important that we continue to keep students motivated, ahead of the curve, and better prepared for college, career, and life.

 As we transition to the Common Core State Standards, I am confident that Florida will continue to serve as a national leader in education reform. Our students, parents, educators, communities, and education stakeholders are essential to Florida’s success during this time.  I am committed to communicating openly with educators and the public about education and accountability.

There are several ways that you can stay up-to-date about important educational issues. If you are a parent, please visit the Just for Parents Online Community to find information   and sign up to receive our monthly newsletter. If you are a teacher, please visit our Just for Teachers website to read about the latest resources for your classroom and to communicate with teachers across the state. And, if you are interested in a broad range of educational news, you can sign up for Education Works, a bi-weekly education update.

 Great things are on the horizon! Best wishes for a safe and productive school year.

A Motto Matters

 Video of Commissioner Robinson’s back-to-school message, including information about the new motto.

A motto is a good way to convey an ethos of any organization.  As Florida’s new Commissioner of Education, I am implementing a new motto in support of the strategic plan approved by the State Board of Education and to guide the spirit of our work at the Department:

Supporting Colleges, Careers, Commerce & Creativity

 Everything we do as a FLDOE team must support the essential building blocks of our state and national economy. This means:

  • Preparing high school graduates for the rigor of a quality postsecondary education.
  • Equipping young people and adults with employable skills in high-wage earning careers.
  • Creating public-private partnerships to encourage economic development and strengthen local and statewide commerce.
  • Thinking creatively about how best to deliver and manage our seamless system of education.

In closing, I am honored to be part of the Florida Department of Education. These are exciting times for our state, and I want you to know that your Department of Education is Supporting Colleges, Careers, Commerce & Creativity.

Using Data in Education

Last week, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) released Data for Action 2010, an annual nationwide analysis of states’ ability to collect and use data to improve student achievement. For the 5th year in a row, Florida achieved a perfect score for having the right data policies in place around student and teacher-related data collection and management. The report also noted that we improved our score in how we use the data to increase student achievement, making us one of only six states to be ranked this high. At this point you are probably asking yourself why I happen to be so excited about something like this. For me, the reason is quite simple. By using data, we can better formulate education policies, assist struggling schools, and most importantly, provide educators and administrators with information that can be used to help their students succeed. We’ve spent a long time as a state building up our data systems and working to get as much information as we can out to the public, and I think the impacts of those efforts have really begun to shine lately. In fact, I often hear complaints that maybe we have TOO much data out on the web, inundating people with more than they can handle.

But for me, you can never have too much data as long as you manage and deliver it in streamlined, user-friendly ways. And that’s a big part of what we are going to be doing through Florida’s federal Race to the Top grant and Data Systems grants – taking everything we do now and making it so user-focused and public-friendly that folks will be able to delve right in and become informed about their schools like never before. From this effort I envision a new crop of education advocates, armed with reams of data, all working collectively to make our education system one of the best in the nation and the world.

Now that’s something to get excited about!

Getting Involved in Education

Today, Florida’s State Board of Education met to discuss a number of important education policies and issues. Their discussions centered on things such as integrating more digital content into our classrooms and turning around our lowest performing schools. (The complete agenda can be found at As the governing body and the voice of our education system, our State Board members are tasked with asking difficult questions and making decisions that are solely focused on student success. The involvement of our Board members in the educational process is critical, as is the participation of so many of you. Getting involved and staying involved are just two ways you can make a positive impact on our students. If you are not already engaged in education in your local area, I ask that you make a commitment to do so today. Florida’s education system depends on each and every one of us to make that difference.