District Administration - June 2010 - (Page 41)

SPECIAL REPORT States of DEBATE A New Dawn in the Sunshine State BY RON SCHACHTER Over the last 15 years, Florida has become a battleground for school reform. THE SECOND OF A THREE-STATE SERIES “W HEN YOU LOOK AT FLORIDA, THE STATE LEGISLATURE has always been interested in education, and our governors have always been interested in school reform,” observes Nikolai Vitti, deputy chancellor of school improvement and student achievement for the Florida Department of Education. For more than a decade the state’s legislators and governors—first Jeb Bush and then Charles Crist—have pushed one of the nation’s most ambitious education reform agendas: grading the performance of schools before No Child Left Behind was even an idea, eliminating the “social promotion” of elementary school students lacking the necessary skills, launching more than 400 charter schools around the state, slashing class sizes, and just this past spring, squaring off over whether to impose “pay for performance” requirements on all public school teachers and do away with the tenure system. And in April, Crist signed a bill that requires high school students to take more difficult math and science courses and pass new end-of-course exams to earn a high school diploma. Florida may be more known to outsiders for everything from its Indian River citrus crop to the family entertainment megalopolis in Orlando to the Latin-flavored food and culture of Miami. But the state’s menu of school improvements and its continuing appetite for school reform have drawn plenty of attention from around the country as well and helped Florida place fourth this past March in the first round of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top initiative. While Florida ended up behind winners Delaware and Tennessee, the state’s education commissioner, Eric J. Smith, promised that Florida will win its share of Race to the Top money in the next round. “With only two winners announced in this initial round of funding and $3.4 billion still on the table,” Smith proclaimed, “Florida’s race is far from over.” e rise in Florida’s educational fortunes, supported by steadily increasing student and school achievement, represents an accomplishment light years ahead of and worlds apart from the state’s early days, first as a Spanish colony in the 1500s and as the nation’s 27th state more than three centuries later. e nonstop sequence of school improvement measures so far in the 21st century is a ringing counterpoint to the decidedly humble beginnings of the state’s educational system in the late 19th

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration - June 2010

District Administration - June 2010
Contents
From the Editor
Letters
News Update
Sustainability
Conversations
Administrator Profile
District Profile
Innovative Leaders Take the Phone and Run
A New Dawn in the Sunshine State
The Die-Hard Communicator
Cybersafety in the Classroom
Persuading Teachers to Go Rural
Product Focus
Research Corner
Professional Opinion

District Administration - June 2010

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