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PRESS RELEASE

June 5, 2006

Russell Schweiss
(850) 488-5394 or
Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush Signs A++ Plan for Education
New reforms bring more rigor and relevance to middle and high school

DAVIE — Governor Jeb Bush today signed House Bill 7087, his A++ Plan for Education, increasing the rigor and relevance of Florida's middle and high schools to better prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce. The Governor was joined by bill sponsor State Representative Ralph Arza, K-12 Public Schools Chancellor Cheri Pierson Yecke, state and local officials, school administrators and members of the Department of Education High School Reform Task Force.

"This bold measure will help prepare middle and high school students for the challenges ahead of them," said Governor Bush. "Our students will now take charge and plan for their future, realizing the decisions they make today shape their tomorrow. I commend the Florida Legislature for making these cutting-edge reforms a reality for future generations of Florida students."

Middle School Reform

The strong gains made by our elementary students must be sustained as they enter middle school. To ensure middle school provides higher levels of rigor and lays the groundwork for success in high school and beyond, the A++ middle school reforms include:

  • Requiring students to complete 12 core academic courses (three each in English, math, science and social studies), as well as one course in career and education planning, in order to be promoted to high school.
  • Requiring every middle school in the state to offer at least one high school level math class for which high school credit may be earned.
  • Engaging students to plan for their future. Students will be required to complete a personalized academic and career plan during the seventh or eighth grade through the Florida Academic Counseling and Tracking for Students (FACTS.org) online advising system.

High School Reform

Never before has increasing the rigor and relevance for high school students been more critical in preparing them for college and career.

  • Ninth graders entering high school in the 2007-2008 school year will now be required to earn 16 core academic credits and eight elective credits in order to graduate with a high school diploma. Core requirements consist of four credits of English and math; three credits of social studies and science; one credit of fine arts; and one credit in physical education and health.
  • To better engage students in planning and making decisions for their future, they will now select an area of interest as part of their personalized education and career plan. Students will earn four credits in a major area of interest — similar to college students — which may be in the arts, advanced academic studies or career preparation. There will be flexibility so students can change their areas of emphasis, if they wish. The remaining four elective credits may be used to earn a second major area of interest, a minor, or for other elective classes.

"A+, set a high standard for the children of our state," said Representative Ralph Arza. "In the past seven years we have witnessed incredible student achievement, we now embark on phase two of Governor Bush's educational reform and accountability plan that will lead to high student achievement in middle school and high school."

Reading Initiatives

Access to high-quality reading instruction will continue to drive increased student performance.

  • Middle and high school students reading at the lowest level (Level 1 on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) must enroll in an intensive reading course. Students reading at Level 2 will be required to take an intensive reading course or another course that provides reading instruction.
  • Funding for reading will now be a permanent part of the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) to ensure school districts have adequate annual funding to serve the reading needs of their students.

Career Initiatives

The A++ Plan for Education will assist students in becoming better prepared to enter Florida's workforce by:

  • Creating research-based career and professional academies combining a rigorous academic curriculum with an industry-driven career curriculum. Similar to a "school-within-a-school," these academies will offer students a unique opportunity to focus their interest in a specific area of study.
  • Offering a "Ready to Work" Certification program. This program creates a job skill training and credentialing program for any high school student or adult learner who chooses to participate. An assessment measures a student's readiness in certain job skills, enabling students to obtain an occupation-specific credential that provides employers with a clear, consistent statewide standard of the job skills an individual possesses.

"The A++ Plan for Education brings much needed reform to our middle and high schools," said Chancellor Yecke. "At every grade level, Florida's students, as well as teachers, will benefit from the sound educational policies put in place by Governor Bush and the Florida Legislature."

Teacher Initiatives

Florida is facing a shortage of teachers in certain subject areas, as well as highly-skilled teachers for low-performing schools that need them the most.

  • As part of the A++ Plan for Education, educators who fill this need will receive additional pay through differentiated compensation. Differentiated pay is an incentive that will attract highly skilled and more seasoned teachers to low-performing schools and will help fill vacancies in fields experiencing critical shortages such as math, science and special education.

Paperwork Reduction for Educators

One in three respondents to a survey of Florida teachers conducted last year indicated they were spending more than half of their time each week devoted to paperwork and data collection.

  • Part of the A++ Plan for Education is aimed at reducing the paperwork burden on teachers and other school district personnel. Initiatives include requiring each district to appoint a classroom teacher as a district representative to speak on behalf of teachers, streamlining school improvement plan development and consolidating duplicative student monitoring plans.

Professional Development

Solid leadership is a key component to the success of Florida's education system.

  • Established through the A++ Plan for Education, the William Cecil Golden Professional Development Program for School Leaders will provide professional development and support for principals. This collaborative network of state and national leadership organizations will support the human-resource development needs of principals, principal leadership teams and candidates for principal leadership positions.

    Other Initiatives

    Beginning with the 2007-2008 school year and each year thereafter, the opening date for schools may not be earlier than 14 days before Labor Day. This requirement was put in place in response to concerns from parents and other citizen groups seeking a return to a more traditional school calendar and to bring uniformity to start dates across the state.

    Since 1999, Governor Bush's A+ Plan for Education has played a dramatic role in improving student achievement. Today, more students than ever are reading on their own, participating in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, taking college entrance exams, graduating from high school and pursuing higher education.

    • Seventy-five percent of Florida's third graders are reading at or above grade level, compared to only 57 percent in 2001.
    • 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 1,255 schools earning an "A" in 2005.
    • Between 1999 and 2005, the number of Florida students taking AP exams increased by 125 percent.
    • Record numbers of Florida students are taking 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 students took the ACT.
    • Florida's high school graduation rate increased to 71.9 percent in 2005, up from 60.2 percent in 1999.

    To view a copy of Governor Bush's A++ Plan for Education visit www.myflorida.com.