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February 22, 2002

Contact: Bill Edmonds
Florida Board of Education
(850) 201-7130

Education Secretary Jim Horne calls on educators to improve reading instruction

Education Secretary Jim Horne on Friday called on education leaders and reading experts to take steps to improve reading instruction in Florida's schools.

"By the fourth grade," Horne said, "only half the children in Florida schools can read at their grade level." Horne called that "unacceptable."

Horne told the educators, meeting at the Seminole Campus of St. Petersburg College, that "making every Florida child a good reader is my top priority."

Toward that end, he said, the educators and reading experts must give Florida's teachers better tools so they can do a better job.

"Are our teachers using the best methods available? Reading statistics argue they are not," Horne said. "These statistics, in fact, sound an alarm. I hear it loud and clear, and I hope you do, too."

Secretary Horne called on the members of the roundtable to study methods of teaching reading that are supported by scientific research and recommend those that promise great gains in reading ability for Florida's schoolchildren.

"Help us give our teachers the most effective tools they need to teach reading to the children of Florida," Horne said.

Governor Jeb Bush also addressed the educators. "We must further improve the way Florida prepares its teachers for the classroom," the governor said. "If our children can't read, they can't succeed."

Horne called the gathering "historic," saying educators and experts from all sectors of education in Florida — K-12 schools, community colleges, public universities and independent colleges — had never before gathered to exchange ideas on reading instruction.

"This is another example of collaboration among schools, colleges and universities in Florida," Horne said in his address to the roundtable. "Such cooperation and sharing of expertise and knowledge holds great promise. I encourage you to continue with your meeting of the minds."

The effort drew praise from Commissioner of Education Charlie Crist as well. "This forum is a great opportunity to continue the dialogue on the importance of reading," said Crist, who also spoke to the roundtable group. "We are committed to developing the best strategies and practices to encourage achievement in reading -- the core of success in education."