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December 12, 2005

Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

Department of Education to Hold First K-12 Continuous Improvement Conference
State and national education leaders gather to discuss strategies for increasing student achievement

ORLANDO – Education Commissioner John L. Winn will join education leaders from throughout the state and nation for the First Annual K-12 Continuous Improvement Conference, Tuesday, December 13 through Friday, December 16 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando. The Department of Education (DOE) conference features nationally recognized speakers and will provide professional development opportunities to more than 750 Florida educators. Pre-conference sessions begin today.

Conference attendees will share best practices, learn about the latest research on improving student achievement and participate in sessions led by renowned education leaders, including Dr. Willard Daggett, Founder and President of the International Center for Leadership in Education.

"As we raise the bar for student achievement in Florida, we must also raise the bar on the tools we provide to our educators," said Commissioner Winn. "The research and strategies that conference attendees will be exposed to this week will not only meet high expectations, they will exceed them."

This week’s conference focuses on the Continuous Improvement Model (CIM), an education approach that tracks student performance based on research, helps close the achievement gap and is performance-driven. Florida’s CIM is based on the successful model implemented by Dr. Gerald Anderson, former superintendent of the Brazosport Independent School District in Texas, which resulted in record student performance and the elimination of the achievement gap in succeeding years.

Known as "F.O.C.U.S.," Florida’s version of the CIM was developed in consultation with Dr. Anderson as a tool to improve student achievement across the state. It has been credited by principals of Florida's lowest performing schools as the primary reason for significant improvement in student performance as evidenced by 40 to 50 average point increases in school grade points. In Florida, Martin and Marion School Districts have implemented models based on Brazosport's model, significantly improving school letter grades and student achievement.

In addition, sessions led by teachers, education consultants, vendors, district representatives and DOE staff members will address a broad range of topics, including strategies for improving FCAT writing, data-driven decision making, strategies for students with disabilities and English language learners, parent involvement and community-based mentoring. Emphasized throughout the conference will be the need for and strategies addressing high school reform.

Prior to the official start of the conference, the High School Reform Task Force today joined with the Florida Summit on Mathematics and Science for the following presentations:

  • Information on the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University-Florida State University (FAMU-FSU) College of Engineering’s Bridge to K-12 Education, presented by Dr. Norman Thagard, Associate Dean of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering
  • The nation’s current state of mathematics and science education, presented by Pat O’Connell Ross, Math and Science Partnership Director at the United States Department of Education
  • "U.S. Education in the Bioscience Century: Are We Ready?" presented by Dr. Harry Orf, President of Scripps Florida
  • "High Schools That Work," a keynote presentation from Dr. Gene Bottoms, Senior Vice President at the Southern Regional Education Board

"By holding the High School Reform Task Force and Florida Summit on Mathematics and Science meetings in conjunction with the conference, we open the door for real dialogue about increasing student achievement at the secondary level," said Department of Education Chancellor of K-12 Cheri Pierson Yecke. "Our biggest challenge is to increase the number of students that exit our system prepared for the future – whether they are pursuing postsecondary education or entering the workforce. I thank all of the superintendents for encouraging their staff members to participate in this conference."

Following the presentations, the High School Reform Task Force is meeting separately to draft recommended strategies to reach the goals for high school reform.

For more information, including the conference agenda, please visit