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PRESS RELEASE

January 19, 2006

Jennifer Fennell or
Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

State Board of Education Approves 2006 Legislative Priorities
Legislative priorities include teacher recruitment, education reform and accountability

ORLANDO — The Florida State Board of Education (SBOE) on Tuesday approved the 2006 legislative priorities for the Department of Education (DOE). Education Commissioner John L. Winn presented a legislative agenda that addresses key issues facing the state including the need for nearly 32,000 teachers by August. Teacher recruitment and retention efforts, reading initiatives, middle and high school reforms, including updating high school promotion and graduation qualifications, are among the top priorities.

"By working with the Florida Legislature to see these priorities become law, we continue to cultivate a system of education that reflects the needs of our students today and tomorrow," said State Board of Education Chairman Phil Handy. "The policies of yesterday are not enough to make certain our students are ready to compete in a global economy. We must continue to chart the course for student success through solid public policies, which have proven to generate results as we have driven student achievement to higher and higher levels."

"This agenda aggressively tackles the challenges facing education in Florida," said Commissioner Winn. "We are committed to making certain that every student in the state has a highly-effective teacher, support to graduate from high school and access to technologies that will help them achieve their college and career goals. I look forward to working with the Florida Legislature to enact these reforms and make the future of education in the Sunshine State even brighter."

The SBOE approved all proposals presented by Commissioner Winn, including:

  • Teacher Incentive Package — Create professional compensation scales to pay teachers more for meeting certain criteria. Incentives would include paying teachers more for: teaching in a shortage subject area (subjects will be identified by the Florida State Board of Education); working in a high-need area (rural, inner city, etc.); working in a juvenile justice facility; and taking on additional duties such as serving as a mentor. The package will also increase and expand access to tuition reimbursement for critical teacher shortage areas. Teachers who teach for one full school year in Florida in a critical shortage subject area will be eligible to receive forgiveness from student loans.
  • Teacher Recruitment Incentive Fund — Create a $30 million teacher recruitment incentive fund available to districts statewide in the form of a matching grant. Districts will be able to use the funds to offer signing bonuses, housing assistance, or target critical shortage placements. Districts decide how to best use the funds based on the needs in their community.
  • High School Reform — Never before has the need been greater to reform high school policies in order to better prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce. Core reforms of the proposal include a policy that ensures all high school students will have access to smaller learning communities, college preparatory programs, career academies, electronic advising tools (FACTS.org) and workforce preparation programs by 2008-2009. This proposed legislative priority includes strengthening high school promotion and graduation qualifications by requiring an area or emphasis, or "major" for the high school diploma, increasing the math requirement from three to four credits, and introducing student recognition based on the attainment of high levels of proficiency in content areas. The proposal also includes classifying students by year, allowing students to repeat failed courses or take similar ones to meet graduation requirements versus retaining students on a year-to-year basis without providing any remediation. The reform efforts aim to put more emphasis on high school graduation as the goal for all students, while pushing students to achieve in subject areas they have keener interests in.
  • Middle Grades Reform — Place greater focus on academic rigor, bringing middle grades to a credit-based system with a uniform grading scale. Also more intensive reading instruction will be provided to below basic readers. Middle schools will be expected to offer some high school courses for credits such as Algebra I.
  • Paper Reduction — This legislative priority will support the recommendations made by the Paper Reduction Task Force. Recommendations include: repealing the requirement for the Academic Improvement Plan (AIP), replace the Personalized Middle School Success Plan with an individual student progress monitoring tool and requires school districts to limit the amount of paperwork required by teachers.
  • Reading Initiatives — Florida's students are making great gains in reading. To further literacy achievements for students, the SBOE and DOE recommend an allocation for reading become a permanent component of the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) and will increase each year along with the traditional FEFP. An additional proposal will put the Just Read, Florida! office in statute to assist districts with long-term, research-based reading strategies.
  • Professional Development Program — This proposal will codify the Developing Educational Leaders for Tomorrow's Achievers (DELTA) professional development program for principals and other administrative leaders into Florida Statute language. This statewide system for professional development includes training opportunities for school leaders and higher pay based on improved student performance.
  • School Bonus Points — Schools will have increased opportunity to improve their school grades through bonus points. Beginning with the 2007-2008 school year, schools may be awarded up to 10 bonus school grading points for demonstrating exceptional performance through student achievement in areas other than the core subject areas tested through the FCAT. The program will be voluntary for schools. The State Board of Education will set the bonus scoring methodology and approve appropriate assessment instruments.
  • Scholarship Accountability — Florida's aggressive school choice programs have empowered and given flexibility to disadvantaged families with children in failing schools to choose other educational opportunities. This legislation will strengthen Florida's choice programs by clarifying responsibilities that ensure an appropriate student learning environment.
  • Career Education Programs — These programs will prepare additional students for the workforce and entice current GED recipients to go on to additional training and education. Through grant and scholarship funding, students will have improved access to continued workforce training, postsecondary career certification programs and community colleges.

For more information on DOE programs or legislative priorities please visit www.fldoe.org.