Governor Scott Signs Executive Order to Reduce Testing in Florida

On February 24, Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order 15-31 to suspend the grade 11 Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) for English language arts until the Florida Legislature has an opportunity to consider legislation to eliminate the mandate.

The elimination of the test follows an investigation conducted by Commissioner Pam Stewart that recommended a reduction in the number of tests Florida students in public schools are required to take.

View Executive Order 15-31.

View the Governor’s call to reduce testing in Florida schools.

An Increased Investment in Education

For more than 30 years, I have worked with and on behalf of Florida students and I can honestly say this is the best time for education I have experienced. Florida has been recognized as a national leader for student achievement and teacher preparation and, to build on these successes, Governor Rick Scott has proposed historic funding for K-12 education, as well as policies that will help Florida students earn a college diploma faster and with less debt.

Commissioner Pam Stewart Highlights Governor Scott’s Historic K-12 Funding Announcement During Florida Cabinet Meeting.Our graduation rates are at an 11-year high, we’re ranked 7th in the nation for K-12 academic achievement and we have been successful at narrowing the achievement gap between African American and white students.

I credit the hardworking teachers and school staff members who come in early, leave late and spend the extra one-on-one time with students so that they are prepared for success in the classroom and in life.

In January, Governor Rick Scott unveiled his 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” Budget, and I pleased to share his strategic education investments:

  • $19.75 billion in total funding for K-12 public schools, an increase of $842.5 million;
  • $7,176 per student funding, an increase of $261 over the current school year and $50 above Florida’s previous record in 2007-2008;
  • $20 million to create a Rapid Response Start-up Grant program for technical centers;
  • $5 million to incentivize $10,000 STEM degrees at Florida Colleges;
  • $1 million to facilitate partnerships with high-tech Florida companies;
  • $80 million to assist districts in implementing their Digital Classroom plans;
  • $164.6 million for maintenance, repair, and renovation of public schools educational facilities;
  • $100 million for maintenance, repair, and restoration of charter schools;
  • $23.5 million to expand Bright Futures to cover summer term courses; and
  • The elimination of sales tax on college textbooks.

I had the honor of joining Governor Scott at Atlantic Technical College in Broward County where he announced his proposal to increase per-pupil funding in the 2105-16 fiscal year, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Governor Scott is truly a champion for education; we already had the highest total spending for our state’s education system last year and he is the first governor to have a specific appropriation dedicated to teacher pay raises.

Last year, Florida invested a total of $18.9 billion in K-12 education, which was the highest to that point. Now, the Governor is proposing an increase for a new record total of $19.75 billion to ensure Florida’s students have access to a world-class education. This amounts to a $261 per-student increase over this school year and a $50 increase from the previous record.

I credit Governor Scott’s commitment to job creation and overall economic growth for enabling us to have the additional funds to invest in education.  I am confident that this investment will pay off for years to come as graduating students will be able to contribute to Florida’s economy once they enter the workforce.

Florida students are fortunate to have many of the nation’s best principals and teachers, and this new proposed funding will ensure they have the necessary resources to continue thriving.

To learn more and hear what stakeholders have to say, click here.

Governor Rick Scott Proposes Historic Education Funding In The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” Budget

Governor Rick Scott’s “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget increases K-12 funding to a historic level of $19.75 billion, an increase of $261 per student over last year and $50 per student over the previous record in 2007-2008. In addition, the Governor’s budget also includes $20 million to create a Rapid Response Start-up Grant program for technical centers, $5 million to incentivize $10,000 STEM degrees at Florida Colleges, $80 million for Digital Classroom plans, and $23.5 million to expand Bright Futures to cover summer term courses.

Governor Scott said, “We want Florida to be the global leader for jobs, and we must have a skilled workforce to reach that goal. That is why I am proposing the highest level of funding in Florida history. Investing in education is the best way to ensure our students are gaining the knowledge they need to meet the needs of tomorrow’s employers. Thanks to Florida’s hard-working teachers and school leaders, our students already rank among the best in the nation, and we will keep working to provide record investments in education so our students have the resources they need to succeed.”

Governor Scott’s proposed budget includes:

  • $19.75 billion in total funding for K-12 public schools, an increase of $842.5 million;
  • $7,176 per student funding, an increase of $261 over the current school year and $50 above Florida’s previous record in 2007-2008;
  • $20 million to create a Rapid Response Start-up Grant program for technical centers;
  • $5 million to incentivize $10,000 STEM degrees at Florida Colleges;
  • $1 million to facilitate partnerships with high-tech Florida companies;
  • $80 million to assist districts in implementing their Digital Classroom plans;
  • $164.6 million for maintenance, repair, and renovation of public schools educational facilities;
  • $100 million for maintenance, repair, and restoration of charter schools;
  • $23.5 million to expand Bright Futures to cover summer term courses; and
  • The elimination of sales tax on college textbooks.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said, “I applaud Governor Scott for his focus on education in the ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget. Florida families deserve access to high-quality education opportunities, and his focus on technical centers, STEM education, and digital classroom initiatives is critical to help prepare Florida students for success in college, career and life. I am confident that this investment will pay off for years to come as the students who benefit from this funding will be able to contribute greatly to Florida’s economy once they enter the workforce.”

Gary Chartrand, State Board of Education Chairman, said, “Florida’s future depends on making key investments that give students the 21st century skills necessary to become a highly qualified workforce. By increasing K-12 per student and total funding, giving technical centers the ability to respond to the evolving workforce needs of their communities, helping districts implement Digital Classroom Plans and investing in charter school facilities, Florida is poised to remain a national leader in education and workforce development. I thank Governor Scott for his leadership in making education a top priority in Florida.”

“I applaud Governor Scott for his commitment to education in the proposed ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget and for recognizing the importance of our classrooms and the impacts they have on our economy,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie. “At Broward County Public Schools we believe in educating today’s students to succeed in tomorrow’s world.”

Ken Haiko, chairman of Renaissance Charter Schools, Inc. said, “Florida families value school choice and the charter schools that give them high-quality education choices. Governor Scott’s increase in fixed capital outlay for charter schools is a great first step that will allow Florida families to continue to have access to a variety of educational options that best fit their needs.”

Jennifer Grove, Community Development Manager, Gulf Power, and CareerSource Florida Board of Directors Strategic Policy Council Chairman said, “Governor Scott has proven to be focused on addressing the needs of our workforce. The Rapid Response Grant funding for Florida’s technical schools will put us head and shoulders above other states in matching the training of our state’s workforce to the ever-changing needs of industry.”

Christie Bassett, 2015 Florida Teacher of the Year, said, “Governor Scott’s long-standing commitment to education is reinforced in his ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget. His increases in per-pupil funding and total K-12 funding will help educators best prepare students for success now and in the future.”

Sandy Shugart, President of Valencia College, said, “The Governor’s budget for the Florida College System features a significant commitment to performance-based funding, a direction long supported by Valencia College and an essential feature of the state’s funding model going forward. I look forward to working with the Governor’s team and the legislature both to make performance funding a reality and to assure that all of the colleges in the system are competing for these funds on a level playing field.”

To learn more about the “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget, visit www.keepfloridaworking.com.

Guest Blog: First Lady Ann Scott Shares Love of Reading with Florida Students

I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. So, when I became First Lady, I knew I wanted to focus on literacy and share my passion for reading with Florida’s students. Rick and I were blessed with two daughters, Allison and Jordan, and while they were growing up we spent a lot of time as a family poring over books. Now, they are grown with families of their own and I have the pleasure of watching them show our grandsons, Auguste, Quinton and Sebastian, the joy of reading.

First Lady Ann Scott reads to her oldest grandson, Auguste, at the 2014 Florida Governor’s Mansion Easter Egg Hunt.

First Lady Ann Scott reads to her oldest grandson, Auguste, at the 2014 Florida Governor’s Mansion Easter Egg Hunt.

I was the oldest daughter of four children and my family did not have many books growing up, so we relied on the school and local libraries, where we spent countless hours perusing the shelves. It was there, between the rows of bookshelves, that I developed an abiding love for reading that has stayed with me my entire life.

In fact, some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around these trips to the library and the hours my siblings and I spent picking out as many books as we could carry home. In elementary school, I read all of the biographies in the school library. Then, as a pre-teen, I was introduced to classic literature from both Charlotte and Emily Bronte, including my favorite novel, Jane Eyre.

Who would have known that reading 19th century gothic literature in the back of the library would introduce me to the other love of my life, my husband, Rick. The very first time I met Rick was at our high school library in Kansas City, Missouri.

As Florida’s First Lady, I have had the opportunity to visit elementary, middle, and high schools from the Panhandle to the Keys to talk with students about making reading a part of their daily routine. Next week, January 26-30, we will begin the 2015 Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!, with events and school visits across the state.

This is my fifth consecutive year participating in the annual event, which I believe is a wonderful reminder to students, parents and teachers that reading is absolutely fundamental to success both inside and outside the classroom.

I am encouraging all Floridians to join me in making literacy a priority in our homes and workplaces. You can visit Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! for more information, including a list of exciting statewide events and initiatives.

Show how you are promoting literacy in your community by using the hashtag #CLW2015.

About the author: First Lady Ann Scott is a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. High school sweethearts, the Governor and First Lady have been married for 42 years and have two married daughters, Allison and Jordan, and three adorable grandsons, Auguste, Quinton, and Sebastian. An avid reader, the First Lady loves traveling the state, sharing her passion for reading and literacy with Florida’s students.

A Surprise Announcement for an Incredible Educator

pamstewart-smallHonoring outstanding educators and students is by far my favorite activity as Florida’s Commissioner of Education. The only thing that makes the recognition even better is when it is a total surprise.

Last week, I visited Frances K. Sweet Elementary School to recognize fourth grade educator and Florida’s 2015 Milken Educator Award winner Nardi Routten. Only, Nardi had no idea she was receiving an award.

What a joy to see her reaction to winning this prestigious award and how fervently her students cheered during the announcement. It was evident in that moment how much she has contributed to her students, colleagues and the school as a whole.

Nardi was recognized for her strong track record of raising student achievement. In fact, her students regularly score higher on both district and state assessments, which is a direct reflection of the extra time she spends with individual students.

She is known for meeting with students before and after school, and on weekends. Parents often request her for their children because of her willingness and ability to meet her students’ specific needs. As St. Lucie Public Schools Superintendent Genelle Yost put it, Nardi is a “phenomenal teacher leader.”

Because of the great work of Nardi and others like her, Florida will continue to be a national leader in education.

To learn more about Nardi’s accomplishments, visit the Florida Department of Education’s newsroom.

About the author: Commissioner Pam Stewart leads the Florida Department of Education, which supports Florida’s Pre-K-12 education system, serving more than 2.7 million students and 192,000 educators. She is a former teacher, principal and deputy superintendent.

Leading the Way on Literacy

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Right before the beginning of the school year, I had a chance to meet with a small group of teachers gathered at Kate Sullivan Elementary School in Tallahassee for a workshop on effective classroom instruction. After an engaging conversation with the participants, I noticed an intriguing question written on the facilitator’s flip chart: “What are the learning goals of the unit?” The question was the first step in encouraging attendees to start thinking about what they wanted their students to achieve and then working backwards to determine what objectives would accomplish their goals.

We recently applied this concept at the department in anticipation of Florida’s 2015 Celebrate Literacy Week – January 26 – 30. During this special week, thousands of schools from across the state participate in activities that promote and encourage daily reading. I shared with our team that one of my goals for this annual celebration is to set a great example for Florida’s schools, districts and other state agencies by participating in literacy-building activities throughout the month of January.

To accomplish our goal, we’ve came up with a few fun activities any organization can implement to cultivate literacy skills both inside the classroom and the workplace.

FMy Today's Readers are Tomorrow's Leaders Door Posteravorite Book Door Posters – This a great way to demonstrate your passion for reading while also sharing book suggestions with your colleagues. You may be surprised to find which of your co-workers enjoy the same books as you. You can download a copy of the poster we created here.

Book Drive –We encouraged department staff to bring in new and gently used young adult/children’s books to donation boxes located throughout our building.

Reading Challenge – One of the key events of each Celebrate Literacy Week is the Million Minute Marathon, where more than 1.2 million students take time out of their day to read. To mirror the marathon’s success, we are hosting our own reading competition, where each employee will log the number of pages they read each week.

Regardless of your job, literacy is critical to lifelong success, and I believe that children and adults need to make reading a part of their everyday routine. Let us know how your families, classrooms and offices are making literacy a priority by emailing us at CommunicationsOffice@fldoe.org.

You can also add your voice to our literacy conversation, by using the 2015 Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! hashtag #CLW2015.

About the author: Commissioner Pam Stewart leads the Florida Department of Education, which supports Florida’s Pre-K-12 education system, serving more than 2.7 million students and 192,000 educators. She is a former teacher, principal and deputy superintendent.

Max, Ruby and the Art of Perseverance

“How did Max help the grocer understand what he needed from the store?” I asked Mrs. Lamb’s Kindergarten class. Nearly every hand shot up. We had just finished reading the book “Bunny Cakes,” which tells the story of the misadventures Max and his older sister Ruby encounter while trying to bake cakes for their grandmother.

Reading the book "Bunny Cakes" to students in Mrs. Lamb's Kindergarten class.

Reading the book “Bunny Cakes” to students in Mrs. Lamb’s Kindergarten class.

Max is determined to purchase Red-Hot Marshmallow Squirters from the local grocer to top his earthworm cake. However, the grocer cannot understand his handwriting and so Max must find a new way to communicate what he needs. Mrs. Lamb’s students instantly picked up on Max’s determination and answered my question, replying that “Max kept trying until he found something that worked.”

The struggles that Max encounters in the book are similar to the ones our youngest students experience every day as they develop literacy skills. As a former educator and principal, I can tell you that reading and writing fluency are improved through practice and repetition. However, this season of early skill-building can often be challenging for students…and their parents.

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Asking questions about the two main characters in the book “Bunny Cakes.

A student’s early writing projects are often filled with misspellings and missing punctuation marks. But don’t get frustrated; students learn best through practice, both inside and outside of the classroom. Parents can foster their children’s confidence, and ultimately their passion for reading, by focusing on the process and less on the final product.

As winter break nears, there are many activities families can take part in to support and encourage lifelong readers. Here are a few ideas to promote literacy in your home.

  • Create a Reading Hour – Set aside one hour each day during the winter break as a “reading hour.” Make sure each family member, including parents, has plenty of books to choose from and a comfortable and quiet place to curl up and read.
  • Make Grocery Lists – Ask your child to write down the family’s grocery list before heading out to the store. Praise your child during the activity, even if they misspell certain words. For very young children, have them draw pictures of the items on the list.
  • Find Age-Appropriate Books – Ask your librarian about age-appropriate books. Often children become discouraged when they attempt to read a book beyond their reading level. Both the public library and the school’s library have many options available.
  • Play Rhyming Games – Entertain each other during long car rides by rhyming new and challenging words.
  • Write a Book – Encourage your child to write a book about his or her winter break and read it to the whole family.
  • Ask Thought-Provoking Questions – After picking out a book to read aloud, ask your children questions about the story that will develop their critical-thinking skills. For example, I didn’t ask Mrs. Lamb’s students to identify the color of the marshmallow squirters .Instead, I asked them to explain Max’s actions to solve a problem.

For additional ideas, visit the department’s Pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/floridadoe/ and check out our “Winter Break Activities” board.

Commissioner Stewart, Mrs. Lamb and her students.

Visiting with Mrs. Lamb and her students.

At the end of the book “Bunny Cakes,” Grandma Bunny was proud of both Ruby’s perfect bunny angel cake with raspberry-fluff frosting and Max’s messy earthworm cake. What a great example for all of us to see the value of a child’s perseverance.

About the author: Commissioner Pam Stewart leads the Florida Department of Education, which supports Florida’s Pre-K-12 education system, serving more than 2.7 million students and 192,000 educators. She is a former teacher, principal and deputy superintendent.