District Data Leaders

Not everyone’s a “numbers person.” For some, analyzing data is as fear-inducing as public speaking. Lucky for me, today I did both.

Florida’s superintendents are leading the nation in using data and technology to address critical education issues. This afternoon I had the privilege of honoring four superintendents for their outstanding use of resources during our third annual District Data Leaders program.

Superintendents Alberto Carvalho (Miami-Dade), Dr. Alexis Tibbetts (Okaloosa), Richard Shirley (Sumter) and Dr. Joseph Joyner (St. Johns) were selected as District Data Leader of the Year finalists for establishing information systems to make more informed changes on behalf of students, parents and staff.

2012 District Data Leader of the Year Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alberto Carvalho

In the past, district leaders have collected and evaluated data from a variety of areas, including educator effectiveness, parental involvement and community sentiment. This year’s winner, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, exemplified the innovative spirit shared by many advocates for data quality.

Under Alberto’s leadership, Miami-Dade district leaders put in place a system that monitors student progress over time, giving educators vital information about each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. Teachers are then able to tailor a plan to put at-risk students back on track. And, in turn, students can reach important milestones at their own pace.

We could not have recognized these valuable leaders without the support of the Florida Education Foundation and program sponsors Microsoft, Kyra InfoTech, MetaMetrics and Hotel Duval.

Using these data-driven tools, we can better assess and meet the needs of Florida greatest resource, our students.

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.

Statement Regarding the Florida School Boards Association’s (FSBA) Anti-High-Stakes-Testing Resolution

Public pronouncements by any governing institution remain one of the best ways to measure its tenacity of purpose. Embodied inside the words adults choose to convey an important message are their hopes and fears about the future. That is particularly true when schoolchildren are the topic of conversation.

 Yesterday’s vote by the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) in favor of an anti-high-stakes-testing resolution is a perfect example of adults expressing concern about the future. Unfortunately, the resolution is short on providing hope to schoolchildren who are Florida’s future. Similar to the national resolution that calls into question the need for educational assessments, the FSBA’s resolution claims the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is too expensive, narrows the curriculum and is a detriment to student success. Let us separate rhetoric from reality.

Florida invests $16.5 billion in state and local funds to support public schools. Our assessment investment is $59 million. Ensuring that our parents, educators and taxpayers are aware of our students’ educational achievement equates to less than one half of one percent of our investment in public education.

Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards are the foundation for what we expect our students to learn. Subjects covered by Florida standards include English language arts, math, science, social studies, physical and health education, world languages, and fine arts along with other content areas specific to colleges and careers. Contrary to the claim of the FSBA resolution, the FCAT neither drives the curriculum nor narrows the educational experience of Florida students. In fact, at the middle school level, student enrollment in courses such as dance, drama, and world languages has increased more than student enrollment in the subject areas assessed on the FCAT. At the high school level, enrollment in dance, world languages and the humanities has outpaced the growth in student enrollment.

Florida statutes require students take the FCAT in grades 3-10. These assessments average two to three per student per school year and account for less than one percent of the instructional time provided during the year.

 Grade 3 = FCAT 2.0 reading and math

Grade 4 = FCAT 2.0 reading, math and writing

Grade 5 = FCAT 2.0 reading, math and science

Grade 6 = FCAT 2.0 reading and math

Grade 7 = FCAT 2.0 reading and math

Grade 8 = FCAT 2.0 reading, math, writing and science

Grade 9 = FCAT 2.0 reading

Grade 10 =FCAT 2.0 reading and writing

EOCs = Algebra 1, geometry and biology

 It is worth noting that local school boards require students to take many more assessments than those required by the state. For example, four of the first few districts to adopt the anti-high-stakes testing agreement require significant testing in addition to state requirements. This additional testing ranges from an average of four to nine additional tests each year per student. 

 In closing, the FSBA has a right as a governing body to express its opinion about Florida’s accountability system and the tools used to evaluate student achievement. School boards in Florida also have an obligation to implement the education laws approved by the Florida Legislature and the rules promulgated by the State Board of Education. Raising the benchmark set forth in our Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, and annually assessing progress through the FCAT, is a formula with a proven track record of success over the past decade as evidenced in gains made by students—based on race, ethnicity, disability, language, income and other criteria. Surely we have more gains to make, and are putting in place metrics to accomplish this goal, which I know is shared by FSBA. And as Florida walks toward internationally-benchmarked Common Core State Standards adopted by 45 states and 3 territories, now is not the time to focus on a future tapered by fear of so-called high stakes assessments. Instead, let us focus on using assessments to help Florida students develop the high-level skills they need to be successful in higher education, to earn higher-incomes in the workplace, and to participate at a high level in a nation bubbling with high expectations.

 

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.

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/.

Commissioner talks teacher evaluations, charter schools and more with Orlando Sentinel

Commissioner Robinson sat down with members of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board to discuss education issues, including teacher evaluations, charter schools and a variety of other topics. Check out the video for footage of the meeting.

Seeking Flexibility, Looking for Input

Guest post by DOE Chancellor of Public Schools Michael Grego

Florida has long embraced progressive reform efforts in education. We have not shied away from meaningful changes that ultimately prepare our students for what lies ahead in their paths – whether that is a successful career or challenging postsecondary work. This is one of the main reasons for us to apply for the flexibility waiver being offered by the U.S. Department of Education. While we at the Florida Department of Education prepare the application to submit, we are also seeking your input as well.

We continue to set high standards and want to align our accountability system with the federal requirements. By doing so, we hope to minimize the confusion that so many of our education stakeholders have expressed with schools that are graded A or B, but not able to show adequate progress according to the federal definitions.

Check out the resources at www.fldoe.org/esea and provide your comments through the email address and the online survey. Your feedback will be vital as we refine the framework to help our students further their education.

Setting Higher Standards for our Students

I released a statement today to let people know of the FCAT 2.0 standard setting process currently underway in Florida. In it I highlighted the fact that committees of teachers, superintendents and business leaders have spent numerous hours over the past several weeks providing feedback on how Florida should report Achievement Levels for our students’ performance on statewide assessments. They offered their feedback; now we are looking for yours. 

You have the opportunity to provide your thoughts on what each grade level’s test scores for expected achievement should be as we continue our work together to improve educational outcomes for all students. To participate in this rule development process, please visit our webpage at https://app1.fldoe.org/rules/default.aspx. Once the feedback period concludes, our next step is to present a recommended rule to the Florida State Board of Education in December for their approval. 

Establishment of these new Achievement Level cut scores is essential in our work to raise expectations for our students and adequately prepare them for the jobs of today. We look forward to hearing from you! 

 

A Waiver for Clarity

Many of you may have read in the news recently about No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers and how Florida is planning on seeking one. I want to take a quick moment to explain why this is important, and the potential benefit to our state. 

  • Currently, we have “A” and “B” state-graded schools that are labeled as struggling according to federal requirements. This is confusing for parents and spreads too many mixed messages in our communities.
  • Florida set a high standard for those federal requirements early on, while other states set lower standards that give the appearance of better performance. 
  • Existing federal requirements are very narrow and do not account for many different facets of the work of our schools.
  • These same requirements do not account for the learning growth of every student.

Florida has been ahead of the curve on this issue, working with our federal partners to establish a school improvement program several years ago that bridged both state and federal accountability requirements. A federal waiver would allow us to further enhance this program to account for the issues above, and allow us to bring clarity to the performance of our schools. I hope you follow this issue closely in the coming months as the benefits to our students will be immeasurable.    

And I close with this: Florida is neither waiving standards nor accountability. Florida simply seeks relief from regulations to better educate our students and to create a learning environment to support our teachers and principals.

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.