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November 2008 "Just for Teachers" Newsletter

Message from DOE Teacher Liaison, Sheila Veatch

November is here—the air is crisper, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we are well into the second quarter of school. I have recently had the pleasure of visiting several schools across the state. Whether I was observing a writing lesson in Tallahassee, a middle school algebra class in Jacksonville, kindergarteners in Bradenton, or student musicians in Tampa, I was once again reminded of the great things educators are doing. I appreciate the time many of you took to share your thoughts and concerns with me when I visited your school, even though it meant sacrificing some of your valued planning period. Your insights help me to focus on how I can best assist Florida educators.

On a personal note, it has been science fair time at the Veatch home. My 5th grade son was encouraged by his teacher to ask questions, explore ideas, and seek conclusions. This valid exercise stretched my son and taught him lessons across content areas. As he explored whether the presence of fat affected how many popcorn kernels popped, he was involved in reading, analyzing, counting, measuring, graphing, hypothesizing, dividing, writing, and concluding. As a parent, I appreciate the foundation my son’s teacher provided that enabled him to complete his project.

Announcing Next Generation Strategic Plan

On October 23 Commissioner Eric Smith announced the Next Generation Strategic Plan for Florida. In his announcement Dr. Smith described the Department of Education’s vision as a commitment to changing the culture of PreK to postsecondary Florida schools by raising the ceiling and raising the floor to better enable student success in the 21st century. This commitment will serve to increase the proficiency of all students within one seamless, efficient system, by providing them with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills through learning opportunities and research valued by students, parents, and communities, and to maintain an accountability system that measures student progress toward the following goals:
  • Highest student achievement
  • Seamless articulation and maximum access
  • Skilled workforce and economic development
  • Quality efficient services

The following chart illustrates the focus areas and strategies that will be used to fulfill this mission:

Focus Areas 2008-2009 Strategies
1. Strengthen foundation skills 1a) Next Generation Sunshine State Standards
1b) Bright Beginnings
1c) VPK Reading Assessments
1d) K–12 Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading
1e) VPK–3 Math Assessments
1f) Differentiated Accountability
2. Improve college and career readiness 2a) College and Career Readiness Alignment
2b) Next Generation High School Accountability
2c) Next Generation Elementary and Middle School Accountability
2d) End-of-Course Exams
3. Expand opportunities for post-secondary degrees and certificates 3a) Articulation Accountability
3b) Common Prerequisite Revisions
3c) Postsecondary Course Competency Revisions
3d) Gold Standard Career Pathways
3e) State College System Task Force and Pilot
4. Improve quality of teaching in the education system 4a) Effective Instruction
4b) Performance Pay
5. Improve K–12 educational choice options 5a) School District Virtual Instruction
5b) Supplemental Educational Services Provider Grading System
5c) Florida Schools of Excellence Commission Operation Framework
6. Align resources to meet strategic goals 6a) 2009–2010 Legislative Budget Request
6b) Alignment of 2008–2009 Federal Funds with Goals
6c) 2008–2009 Prioritization of Internal Operating Funds


Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education Winners

Governor Crist announced the winners of the Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education Awards at the annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, held at the Governor’s Mansion on October 14th. Three outstanding Hispanic educators were honored for their contributions to education in Florida. Each received an award check for $1,500, as well as a $500 gift certificate for classroom supplies, made possible by Office Depot. This year’s recipients, shown from left to right with Governor Crist, are Mr. Salvador Mucino, a geometry and AP calculus educator from Wellington Community High School in Palm Beach County; Mrs. Barbara Jarrett, who teaches ELL classes at Valrico Elementary School in Hillsborough County; and Mr. Hector Varas, a foreign language instructor at Crystal Lake Community Middle School in Broward County. Congratulations to these exceptional educators.

More News...

Supplemental Educational Services (SES)

In 2007-2008, over 70,000 low-income students in Florida received free tutoring by state-approved providers through Supplemental Educational Services (SES). Under No Child Left Behind, schools identified as “in need of improvement” for failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress for two or more consecutive years must offer SES to low income students. SES is defined as additional academic instruction, outside of the regular school day, designed to increase the academic achievement of students. SES services must be consistent with the content and instruction used by the school district and is aligned with the state’s academic content standards.

As a teacher you may support the SES program in a number of ways:

  • Utilize SES as an intervention strategy for your low-achieving students
  • Encourage eligible families to enroll their child in SES
  • Review SES provider progress reports of your students
  • Consider tutoring for an SES provider in your area

For further information regarding SES, visit the Department’s Web site at:

For a list of district SES contacts, visit:

FCAT Sample Test Materials (STM)

Please be aware of a few changes that affect the content and distribution of FCAT Sample Test Materials (STMs):
  • There are no 2009 Writing+ STMs because the FCAT Writing test no longer includes multiple-choice items.
  • The 2009 Reading/Math/Science STMs are scheduled to arrive in district warehouses no later than Nov. 7, 2008. FDOE has requested that districts not distribute STMs to schools and students until after the Winter Break.
  • FDOE will post 2009 STMs in early Jan. 2009 to the FCAT website at
  • The 2009 Reading/Math/Science STMs are reprints of the 2008 STMs. FDOE “refreshes” items in the STMs on a rotating basis because releasing new items in all booklets each year would deplete the item bank. For those interested in the development of FCAT items, detailed info is provided in Chapter 4 of the FCAT Handbook at

Spotlight on Shadeville Elementary School, Wakulla County

On October 7 the students at Shadeville Elementary School had some very special visitors stop in during National Fire Prevention Week. The students were introduced to “Sparky” and were given the opportunity to “be” a firefighter. Principal Susan Brazier, whose husband is the chief for the Crawfordville Volunteer Fire Department, said it was a great opportunity for the children to see a firefighter in full uniform and learn about ways to prevent home fires.

Resources for October Events

International Education Week (November 17 – 21, 2008)

International Education Week (November 17 – 21, 2008) is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of their efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States. Take this opportunity to incorporate information on a country or culture into your regular lesson plan, even if you don't teach social studies.
  • Explore international aspects of the arts - music, film, theatre, visual arts, literature, and dance - by creating, performing, or studying artwork with an international component.
  • Trade questions and answers with students from another country through the Internet, pen pal clubs, or a Digital Video Conference.
  • Encourage cultural understanding for students using the online resource One World: Connecting Communities, Cultures, and Classrooms. Sponsored by the National Football League and Scholastic Inc., this unique education resource is designed for teachers. The free, web-based program may be downloaded from
  • Organize a cross-cultural potluck lunch in which students bring in or make foods from their homeland or ancestors' homeland.
  • Hold a geography, foreign language, or world history bee for your students. For ideas, see the IEW Quiz! at
  • Embassy Information
    Many U.S. and foreign embassies have resources on their web sites. For a list of U.S. embassies worldwide, visit

More Resources

  • National Geographic Xpeditions
    National Geographic Xpeditions is home to the U.S. National Geography Standards and to thousands of ideas, tools, and interactive adventures that bring standards to life. Here you will find lesson plans, atlas maps, and various activities to help in planning lessons and other activities.
  • World Wise Schools
    Coverdell World Wise Schools, a domestic program of the Peace Corps, has helped more than 3 million U.S. students communicate directly with Peace Corps Volunteers all over the world. The World Wise Schools website offers free, dynamic cross-cultural classroom materials, literature, videos, stories, and lessons to enrich K–12 students.


Begin your Thanksgiving pilgrimage at This interactive site provides a virtual tour of 17th century Plymouth as well as resources, recipes, and lesson ideas.

Just Read, Florida

Just Read, Florida! is the statewide reading initiative that prioritizes reading in Florida's public schools and among all the community groups and volunteer organizations that support them. Their most recent newsletter can be found at

Opportunities for Teachers

I am continually amazed at the opportunities available to educators. Below are just a few programs that offer grants, fellowships, tuition, and materials to both students and teachers.

Jordan Fundamentals Grant Program

The Jordan Fundamentals Grant Program recognizes outstanding teaching and instructional creativity in public schools that serve economically disadvantaged students. First through twelfth grade public school teachers or paraprofessionals in schools with at least 50% of the student body eligible for free or reduced lunch may apply by developing an original lesson plan or thematic unit that demonstrates high expectations for students. Up to 400 grants of $2,500 will be awarded each year. They may be used for resource materials, supplies, equipment, transportation, costs related to field trips, software, and other items required to implement and assess the proposed lesson or thematic unit. 2008 grants have been awarded; applications for 2009 grants to be accepted beginning in January. Complete information is available at

Horace Mann – Abraham Lincoln Fellowship
The fellowship will allow fifty full-time US teachers the opportunity to study the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. It is open to all K-12 teachers of any discipline, but its curriculum is targeted towards educators of grades 4-12. The fellowship features a five-day institute in June and July 2009 in Springfield, Illinois. More information is available at
Deadline: February 12, 2009

James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation
Fellowships are awarded for graduate study of the U.S. Constitution. High school teachers of American history, American government, and social studies are eligible, as are college seniors and graduate students planning teaching careers in those subjects. Fellows from each state receive up to $24,000 to help pay for graduate study leading to a master’s degree in history, political science, or education. Both full- and part-time fellowships are available. Senior Fellowships are awarded to teachers who wish to undertake work for a graduate degree on a part-time basis through summer and evening classes. Senior Fellows have up to five years to complete their degree.
Deadline: March 2009

Did You Know?

On Sunday November 2 Daylight Savings Time (DST) ended. The original purpose of Daylight Saving Time (called "Summer Time" in many places in the world) was to make better use of sunlight during the summer months. The idea of DST was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin during his sojourn as an American delegate in Paris and he shared his idea in his 1784 essay, "An Economical Project." Read more about Franklin's essay at

This year we turned our clocks back one hour on November 2nd. Remember that time-changes always affect students whether they occur in the spring or fall. Scientists say that the twice-a-year manipulation of time definitely has some downsides and most people need at least or more two weeks to adjust. This is largely due to the body's multiple biological clocks, which evolved to operate according to the sun's behavior.