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July 10, 2006
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Governor Bush Attends Fifth Annual Just Read, Florida! Leadership Conference
Governor Bush joined by renowned author and screenwriter Antwone Fisher
LAKE BUENA VISTA Governor Jeb Bush today joined more than 3,500 superintendents, principals, reading coaches and district staff for the fifth annual Just Read, Florida! Leadership Conference. During the three-day conference, state and national leaders, reading experts and guests share reading education strategies and best practices. Governor Bush was also joined today by Florida State Board of Education Chairman Philip Handy, Just Read, Florida! Director Evan Lefsky, Ph.D. and renowned author and screenwriter Antwone Fisher, who shared the importance of literacy and his personal struggle learning to read.
"Florida's commitment to high-quality instruction and accountability is changing the statewide landscape, not only in our schools, but in our communities. I am proud that Florida leads the nation in rising student achievement and with each year our students are continuing to close the achievement gap," said Governor Bush. "When education leaders, teachers and parents work together to ensure the success of our students, we contribute to the overall strength and success of our state."
Sponsored by the Florida Education Foundation and the Florida Lottery, the leadership conference features presentations by state and national leaders, reading experts and celebrities. The conference includes more than 300 sessions, led by principals and reading coaches from across the state. Additional guest speakers include Lt. Governor Toni Jennings, State Representative Ralph Arza, Education Commissioner John L. Winn, K-12 Public Schools Chancellor Cheri Pierson Yecke, Ph.D., literacy expert William Brozo, Ph.D. and former Disney American Teacher of the Year Ron Clark.
"We have witnessed the returns that investing in reading instruction can make for our students," said Chairman Handy. "We must continue to expand and improve opportunities for our students to realize their goals of academic achievement."
During the last five years, Florida students continue to close the achievement gap in reading as a result of the state's focus on reading instruction. Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) results show three-fourths of all Florida third-grade students are reading at or above grade level—the largest number in state history. This year, 50 percent of Hispanic students in grades 3 through 10 reading at or above grade level, up from 35 percent in 2001. Additionally, 39 percent of African-American students are reading at or above grade level, up from 26 percent in 2001.
"Reading is the cornerstone of all learning and a vital skill our youth need to succeed in today's society. I applaud Governor Bush and Just Read, Florida! for their commitment to providing children and their parents the necessary tools to help ensure their success in school and life," said Antwone Fisher.
Established in 2001, Just Read, Florida! is a statewide reading initiative created by Governor Bush to make reading a priority in Florida's public schools and among the community groups and volunteer organizations that support them. The primary goal of Just Read, Florida! is to ensure every school-aged child is able to read at or above grade level by 2012. The initiative has helped school districts implement researched-based reading programs and strategies to improve student learning. It is based on the latest reading research, which includes emphasis on phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. For more information on Just Read, Florida!, please visit www.justreadflorida.com.