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PRESS RELEASE

September 14, 2006

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Commissioner Winn Announces Agreements With Miami-Dade and Orange County School Districts

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner John L. Winn yesterday announced that agreements were reached to turn around chronically failing "F" high schools in Miami-Dade County and Orange County school districts. The State Board of Education will review the district's revised corrective action plans during its meeting next Tuesday in Tallahassee and vote whether or not to formally approve the plans.

"I have every confidence that the State Board of Education will recognize the efforts of these school districts to hire high-performing teachers and implement aggressive mentoring programs for specific principals," said Commissioner Winn. "For too long these schools have struggled, and this year we are determined to focus like a laser on helping these students achieve success."

Since March, the State Board of Education has called for aggressive measures from school districts to turn around repeatedly failing schools. In June, it approved 26 criteria with which school districts must comply to ensure failing schools have the support necessary to improve. Criteria include hiring high-performing teachers, hiring additional reading and math coaches and requiring principals of the schools to have proven leadership skills.

Following the release of school grades, seven schools in four school districts were identified by the State Board of Education as repeating "F" schools in need of intervention: Jefferson High School in Jefferson County; Ribault High School in Duval County; Central High School, Edison High School and Jackson High School in Miami-Dade County; and Evans High School and Jones High School in Orange County. School districts were directed to submit corrective action plans to the Department of Education. During the August meeting, the State Board of Education reviewed the plans and determined that Miami-Dade County and Orange County still remained out of compliance.

Miami-Dade County was found out of compliance for not fully staffing the schools, retaining low-performing teachers and failing to hire highly-effective principals. As part of the 26 criteria, schools must be fully staffed, have high-performing teachers as identified by the Department of Education for increasing student learning gains, and have administrators who have taken "D" or "F" schools to an "A" or "B" school grade designation. In the compromise negotiated between the Department of Education and the district, the district is required to remove most of the low-performing teachers at these schools and is allowed to retain only five low-performing math teachers and five low-performing reading teachers per school within the next 60 days. The remaining low-performing teachers will be required to participate in aggressive mentoring and professional development. In addition, all three high schools are fully staffed and a leadership mentoring program for administrators with highly-effective leaders was implemented within the school district.

"After several weeks of discussion on the fundamental issue of compliance with regard to Miami-Dade County Public Schools corrective action schools, we are pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with the Florida Department of Education," said Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Rudolph F. Crew. "I am satisfied that we have put this issue behind us and can now concentrate our joint efforts on continuing forward in putting these schools on the right track."

Orange County was found out of compliance because a number of teachers at Jones High School and Evans High School were identified by the Department of Education as low-performing. Since the meeting, Orange County replaced many of these teachers and implemented a mentoring program to provide professional development for the few that remain.

"I'm very pleased that our school district has been able to work out these minor differences with the Florida Department of Education on improvement plans for Jones and Evans high schools," said Orange County Superintendent Ronald Blocker.

The State Board of Education will review corrective action plans during its meeting September 19. To view the meeting via Webcast visit www.fldoe.org/meetings/.