Governor Scott Presents Orange County Public Schools with $10.3 Million

Last week, at Dr. Philips High School, Governor Rick Scott presented 111 schools in Orange County with $10.3 million in school recognition funding.  Governor Scott announced yesterday the distribution of more than $124 million in School Recognition Program funding this year to Florida’s high performing schools across the state based on sustained or significantly improved student achievement.

Governor Scott presents Dr. Barbara Jenkins a check for more than $10M in school recognition funding for 111 schools in Orange County.

Governor Scott presents Dr. Barbara Jenkins a check for more than $10M in school recognition funding for 111 schools in Orange County.

Governor Scott talks with students at Phillips High School in Orange County.

Governor Scott talks with students at Phillips High School in Orange County.

Governor Scott said, “I am excited to recognize Orange County schools on their success and present more than $10.3 million in school recognition funding today. Florida teachers are helping prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders, and we are committed to providing our students with the resources they need to succeed. I look forward to seeing Orange County’s continued success as we work together to prepare every Florida student for the future.”

Orange County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said, “I want to thank Governor Scott for visiting us today to recognize the success of Orange County schools and for honoring the hard work of our students, teachers, principals and staff. We are extremely proud of what our school district has accomplished and this funding will help us continue our mission of leading our students to success.”

View Governor Scott’s release announcing the statewide distribution of the School Recognition Program.

For more information on the School Recognition Program, visit


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.

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

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.

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.


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 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.

Industry and Education Leaders Honored for their Commitment to Career and Technical Education

Guest blog post by the Division of Career and Adult Education Chancellor Rod Duckworth.

The state’s top industry and education leaders in career and technical education (CTE) were honored last week at an awards luncheon as part of the Florida Association of Career and Technical Education’s (FACTE) 46th Annual Summer Conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The FACTE conference provided career and technical educators from across the state the opportunity to participate in professional development activities, share best practices about career and technical education, and develop and discuss strategies in response to industry needs to better train the state’s workforce.  During the preconference day, the Division hosted half day workshops for new CTE teachers and administrators that focused on components of a quality CTE program, state and federal legislation, and the implementation of Common Core State Standards into CTE curriculum frameworks.

Florida is fortunate to have a wide variety of programs geared toward preparing students for college and a career. A well-trained and educated workforce is essential to strengthen and expand Florida’s economy. It was an honor to recognize Florida’s career and technical education leaders for their dedication to the state’s students and future workforce.

The winners of the 2012 FACTE awards are below.

President’s Award
Ann Perry Davis, an agriculture teacher in Marion County, was recognized for her successful Future Farmers of America community service project.

Hall of Fame
Loretta Costin, former Florida Department of  Education Chief of Staff and Career and Adult Education Chancellor, was recognized for her work over many years in adult, career and technical education.

Hall of Fame
The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association was recognized for developing the state’s first industry certification program for an agriscience program.

Carl Proehl Award
Rob Aguis, the director of career and technical education in Pasco County, was recognized for being an administrative leader in FACTE.

Joe Mills Career Excellence Award
Libby Essa-Living was recognized for her many years working for Indian River State College and providing state and national level leadership in developing career pathways.

Carl Perkins Humanitarian Award
Tresa Warner, director of the iMAGINATION Career Academy at Lake Region High School in Polk County and Adjunct Professor at Polk State College, was recognized for serving on the DECA Board of Directors and her work as a DECA District Advisor.

Rookie Award
Chad Lyons, an agriculture teacher at Lafayette High School in Lafayette County, was recognized for his enthusiasm and his ability to guide students to academic success.

Walter Clausen Award
Mary Mott, Director of Industry Certifications and Career Development for the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, was recognized for being instrumental in the development of a horticulture certification program for nursery workers and for providing professional development for educators.

FACTE Student Award
Veronica Herr, a Culinary Arts student, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship for her high academic achievement and volunteer activities. She is dual enrolled at Santa Fe College and a member of the National Thespian and Math Honor Society.

Outstanding Student Awards

Outstanding Secondary Student of the Year – Jeb McLendan, a graduate of Middleburg High School in Clay County, was enrolled in the school’s Academy of Agriscience and Construction and was honored for his active membership in Future Farmers of America, Skills USA, and the National Technical Honor Society.

Outstanding Postsecondary Student of the Year – Sarah Trimm earned her Associate of Arts degree while dual-enrolled at Bronson High School in Levy County. She was recognized for being an active member of Future Farmers of America and for being a student athlete. Sarah has since graduated and is attending the University of Florida.

For more information about adult and career education in Florida, visit For information about FACTE, visit

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.