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PRESS RELEASE

February 14, 2006

Russell Schweiss
(850) 488-5394 or
Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush and Lt. Governor Jennings Announce New Middle and High School Reform Measures
New reforms better prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce

TALLAHASSEE — Governor Jeb Bush and Lt. Governor Toni Jennings, joined by members of the Florida Legislature, K-12 Public Schools Chancellor Cheri Yecke, state officials, school administrators and teachers, today announced reforms to middle and high schools. The new policies provide students a more rigorous and relevant high school education, better preparing them for postsecondary education and the workforce. These proposals comprise Governor Bush's A++ Plan for Education and support many of the recommendations made by the Florida State Board of Education's High School Reform Task Force.

"It is never too early to prepare students for the demands of college and the workforce." said Governor Bush. "Through the A++ Plan for Education, we will build on our progress by offering Florida students more choices, more opportunities and a more rigorous education."

In 1999, Governor Bush introduced the A+ Plan for Education, a plan based on high standards and expectations, clear measurement and accountability, and rewards and consequences for results. Since then, the state has raised the bar on accountability by providing remediation and eliminating social promotion, making reading instruction a primary focus in elementary years, providing reading coaches, using the latest in research-based reading curriculum and setting higher standards in how schools are graded.

"I believe that government ought to be run more like a business — and that means putting the customer first," said Senate President Tom Lee. "The Governor's education initiative does just that — by placing the emphasis on student's interests and their career goals rather than trying to run everyone through a 'one-size-fits-all' system."

In addition to the significant reforms proposed last year, Governor Bush introduced the following recommendations related to middle school and high school reform, career education and workforce certification, reading and teacher retention:

Focus on Reading

Governor Bush and Florida's leaders recognize reading is the key to learning. Children who are not reading at grade level by middle school and high school need intensive instruction. In addition to the $189.9 million Governor Bush recently recommended to fund reading initiatives, the Governor also proposes:

  • Automatically increasing funding for reading each year by at least the same increase in public school funding.
  • Providing intensive reading instruction to middle and high school students reading below grade level — levels 1 and 2 — on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).

Building a Strong Middle School Foundation

A rigorous curriculum in middle school builds the foundation for success in high school. To improve the quality of education for middle school students, Governor Bush and Lt. Governor Jennings recommend:

  • Requiring middle school students to earn 12 credits — three credits each for language arts, math, science and social studies — to graduate from middle school or enter high school. To help all students achieve this requirement, Governor Bush is recommending intensive summer training for struggling students in grades 5 through 9.
  • Offering at least one course — such as Algebra — for high school credit at all Florida middle schools. Many students have the ability to excel beyond their grade's current curriculum, and schools should offer these students additional opportunities.
  • Providing middle school students greater exposure to career opportunities. Encouraging career exploration at a younger age provides an important incentive to work hard and strive for greater academic achievement.

"From the beginning, we all understood that solving our education problems would be a long, complicated process without the luxury of simple solutions or quick fixes," said Florida House Speaker Allan Bense. "However, under Governor Bush's leadership, we have made significant improvements in education, particularly in the early grades, and we are seeing dramatic results. The proposals being unveiled today appropriately expand the focus to middle grades and high school and, with these changes, I am confident we will see even more evidence of success in the near future."

High School for the 21st Century

To better prepare students for college and the workforce, Governor Bush and Lt. Governor Jennings are recommending sweeping high school reform, including increased rigor in coursework and promotion and graduation based on proficiency in the classroom. These recommendations include:

  • Offering students the opportunity to graduate with a major or minor area of study — just as college students do — in the arts, advanced studies or career preparation, after completing a rigorous core curriculum.
  • Revising Florida's high school diploma to recognize student performance through "Differentiated Levels of Proficiency" in specific content areas. Students meeting higher standards in honors courses, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, deserve special recognition. The high school diploma should reflect these accomplishments.
  • Increasing the rigor of Florida's high school requirements to include four years of mathematics, including Algebra I and geometry or equivalent courses.
  • Providing an individualized computer-based high school planning tool to all students to help set goals, derive paths to accomplish these goals and track their progress.

"Real high school reform policies like these give students better preparation and opportunities for their future," said Commissioner Winn. "By increasing the rigor of their classes, recognizing and rewarding their achievement, and encouraging them to take hold of their dreams, we create a brighter path for their success."

A $20 Million Investment in the A++ Plan for Education

To implement elements of the A++ reform package, Governor Bush and Lt. Governor Jennings recommend a $20 million investment to fund the following:

  • $12 million for middle school and high school reform, incentivizing the development of special learning communities and career academies, assisting in the revision and upgrade in sunshine standards and providing training to school districts on new technology.
  • $4.6 million to create a professional development and recognition program for principals.
  • $2 million for math and science research, establishing a Florida Center for Math and Science Research to include research-based professional development.
  • $1.3 million to expand the Department of Education's recruitment and retention initiatives.

Building an Educated, Skilled Workforce

It is important to provide additional training for students who choose to enter the workforce after high school rather than pursue higher education To ensure high school students have the skills to successfully transition to the workforce, Governor Bush and Lt. Governor Jennings recommend the creation of a $50 million, multi-year "Ready to Work" certification program.

The program will create a job skill assessment-based training and credentialing program for high school students who choose to major in career and vocational programs. The assessment will measure a student's readiness in certain job skills, and allow the student to obtain an occupation-specific credential that will provide employers with a clear, consistent statewide standard of the job skills an individual possesses.

Administered by the Department of Education and the Agency for Workforce Innovation, the program will be available in secondary schools, community colleges, workforce education programs, vocational rehabilitation centers, Department of Juvenile Justice programs and at regional workforce boards.

"The ‘Ready to Work' initiative is a comprehensive program designed to address the workforce development needs of employees, students and communities," said Lt. Governor Jennings. "These new measures will ensure our students have the skills necessary to succeed in Florida's growing and competitive marketplace."

Since the introduction of Governor Bush's A+ Plan for Education in 1999, student achievement in Florida has been on the rise. Today, more students than ever are reading on their own, taking college entrance exams, graduating from high school and earning college degrees.

  • 71 percent of Florida's fourth graders, including twice as many African-American and Hispanic children, are reading at or above grade level, compared to only 51 percent in 1999.
  • According to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Florida again surpassed the national average in fourth-grade reading and, for the first time, bettered the national average in fourth-grade mathematics.
  • Since 1999, the number of A schools has increased by more than 500 percent, with 1,254 schools earning an A in 2005.
  • The number of schools receiving an "A" or "B" jumped from 21 to 66 percent since 1999.
  • A record numbers of Florida students took the SAT and ACT exams, with an increase of minority test-takers. More than 93,500 — 65 percent — of Florida's 2005 high school graduates took the SAT. In addition, 58,000 of these students took the ACT.

For more information regarding Florida's high school reform policies or the Governor's A++ Plan for Education visit www.myflorida.com or www.fldoe.org.

In support of Governor Bush's A++ Plan for Education

"Once again, Governor Bush is demonstrating visionary leadership and proposing innovative methods to improve on the A+ education program," said Speaker Designate Marco Rubio. When it comes to education, his proposal recognizes that the only way for Florida to have great schools is to challenge students. At the same time he knows that we must give teachers and students the tools they need to reach those goals."

"Since 1988, education in Florida has been under an evolutionary process toward progress and high student achievement," said Representative Rafael Arza, Chairman, House Pre K-12 Education Committee. "The last two aspects of education reform in Florida deal with middle and high school reform. This proposed legislation by the governor addresses 2 areas of critical need in our state and throughout America, and I believe that this will be national trend-setting legislation. We will not settle for low student achievement, we will not settle for low graduation rates. Florida will lead the country in educational reform."

"A++ is an important step in the process of improving education in middle school and high school," said Representative Dennis Baxley, Chairman, House Education Council. "Governor Bush has been a great leader in education reform and this is the next big step."

"The "Ready to work" initiative is the perfect combination of what students want and prospective employers need. It is an intensive work skills initiative that allows students whose future is in the skilled workforce, not a four year university, to master the work skills they need to be successful in the workplace and couples it with a "common language" assessment tool that is meaningful to employers," said Representative Joe Pickens, Chairman, House Education Appropriations Committee. "The end result is a trained workforce with skill sets and credentials that have relevance to both employees and potential employers."

"The Ready to Work Certification Initiative will give Florida's students something of value to help them enter the workforce," said Representative Pat Patterson. "As a result of this tremendous initiative, Florida's students will be better prepared to take their chosen career paths by storm. This program will provide invaluable benefits to Florida's students, as well as Florida's business community."

"The middle and high school reforms encompassed in the A++ legislation strive to ensure that Florida's students are best prepared for life post-graduation," said Representative John Stargel. "These innovative programs will ensure that our students have unlimited options available to them, as well as the greatest possible chances for success in their future endeavors."

"Middle and high school reform is the next step in improving education in Florida," said Senator Evelyn Lynn. "By increasing course rigor and demonstrating relevance to the real world, our student's will be challenged and better prepared for our increasingly competitive world."

"One of the biggest challenges for Florida's businesses is finding potential employees who are prepared for today's job market," said Florida Chamber of Commerce President Frank Ryll, Jr. "Our state's economic future relies on a strong and highly-skilled workforce. The "Ready to Work" initiative will help provide businesses with entry-ready employees who possess the necessary job skills to succeed on the job."

"This is an excellent example of connecting the workforce system's demand side with the education system's supply side, said Curtis Austin, President of Workforce Florida, Inc. "The result is a winning proposition for businesses who need access to a highly qualified workforce."

"Ready to Work will help Florida employers tap into skilled workers that are tailor-fitted to their business needs," said Katherine E. Wilson, Chair of the Workforce Florida Board of Directors. "As a business person, I am excited about this opportunity and see it as a valuable resource for Florida's business community."

"As an economic development tool, Ready to Work will ensure business recruiters that there is a ready and qualified workforce in Florida that is in step with their specific skill requirements," said Susan Pareigis, Director of the Agency for Workforce Innovation. "Employers can be assured that the job candidates we refer are truly ready to work."

Requirements of the Rigorous and Relevant High School Diploma

This diploma proposal combines relevance and rigor into one seamless goal for high schools students.

Relevance: A student will major in an area in which he/she has a particular strength or interest.

Rigor: Each student can choose the level of challenge they want to attain in their major area.

Overall Credit Requirements Credits
Core Courses 15
Major Area of Study 4
Elective or Minor Requirements 5
Total Credits for a High School Diploma 24

Core Courses — All Students 15 Credits
English (Courses for level 1 and 2 students must focus on reading) 4
Math (All students must take and pass Algebra I and Geometry) 4
Science 3
Social Studies 3
PE and Arts (.5 credit each) 1

Major Areas of Study — Students Choose One 4 Credits
(In addition to these areas, local school boards can submit other majors and minors to the State
Board of Education for approval)

Humanities (Courses such as English, humanities, music, fine and/or performing arts)
English (Courses in literature and writing)
Communications (Courses such as journalism, debate, speech, mass media)
Math (Math courses such as linear Algebra, abstract algebra, math analysis, analysis of functions, calculus, AICE further mathematics, multivariate calculus, differential equations, applied mathematics, geometry, analytic geometry, integrated math, advanced topics in mathematics, liberal arts math, probability and statistics, trigonometry, discrete mathematics, etc.)
Science (Science courses such as biology, botany, anatomy and physiology, ecology, limnology, zoology, biotechnology, genetics, earth/space, astronomy, space technology/engineering, environmental, integrated, marine, scholar energy, nuclear radiation, Agriscience, physical, chemistry, physics, etc.) Advanced Math and Science
History (History courses such as American, African American, Florida, Latin American, Eastern and
Western Heritage, American through 1920, Vietnam War, World History, Civil War, etc. )
Social Studies (History courses such as American, African American, Florida, Latin American, Eastern and Western heritage, American through 1920, World, Civil War, etc. Also anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, political science, comparative governments, sociology, psychology etc.)
The Arts (Performing and fine arts)
Foreign Language
Career Specialization

Elective or Minor Requirements — Students' Choice 5 Credits
Students may (1) choose to concentrate three of these credits in one area to obtain a minor and
have two additional credits in another area, (2) take five elective credits, or (3) earn a double major
and take one elective.

Note: A student may change their major and can transfer the credits to be elective credits or may apply them toward a minor.