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January 12, 2007

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Department of Education Announces Major Areas of Interest Available to High Schools

TALLAHASSEE — K-12 Public Schools Chancellor Cheri Pierson Yecke, Ph.D. today announced that school districts now have access to a list that identifies which major areas of interest each high school could offer based on the school's current courses. Choosing major areas of interest is part of new secondary school reform measures aimed at increasing the rigor and relevance of Florida high schools. Last month, the Department of Education approved a statewide list of 442 major areas of interest. Chancellor Yecke made the announcement during a news conference at Lawton Chiles High School in Tallahassee.

"Today we make the bold leap from wanting to increase the relevance of high school to actually doing it," said Chancellor Yecke. "With this identified list of majors, school officials will see what courses are already in place and available to students, expanding the opportunities beyond what many thought possible."

Major areas are available for students in high schools throughout Florida, including students with disabilities working toward a special diploma, students enrolled in career academies or magnet programs, and students in charter schools. Ninth graders during the 2007-2008 school year will be the first students to participate in this opportunity. New major areas of interest include Aerospace and Aviation, Math and Science, Education, Biotechnology, Entrepreneurship and many in the arts and vocational areas.

"We are excited about this opportunity to have secondary students actively focus on their futures," remarked Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons. "By defining their major areas of interest, students are much more likely to understand the real life relevance of the courses they are taking at each step of their education."

To develop the state-approved list, school districts submitted proposed major areas of interest to the Department of Education last fall. Curriculum specialists completed an internal review of district proposals, reviewing them for alignment, course availability for all high school students, rigor, relevance and most importantly — added value to Florida's high school diploma. The internal review was followed by an external review by teachers and stakeholders recommended to the Department of Education by district superintendents. Teachers from across the state helped to review and recommend these submissions.

"A major consideration encourages all of us to shift our traditional paradigm of "elective" being "recess," said Kelly Little, an art teacher at Lawton Chiles High School. "Now the classes students choose have as much importance and relativity to their future as required subjects. All teachers can contribute to the idea of students focusing for the future."

Other changes for students starting high school in the 2007-2008 school year include earning 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. Out of the eight elective credits, students choose a major of area of interest that includes four credits in a common area, such as sequential courses in a career and technical program, fine and performing arts, or academic content area, as part of the student's education plan. The other four credits are electives.

"A major area of interest is a great way to engage students and encourage them to take charge of their own education," said Kelley Finn, an 11th grade student at Lawton Chiles High School. Finn participated in the Secondary Education Reform Committee as the state student representative. She organized and facilitated a student focus group to discuss the new major area of interest requirement. A number of those students attended the news conference

Students will be able to select their major area of interest through Florida's online student advising system, the Florida Academic Counseling and Tracking for Students or In early 2007, eighth-grade students can go to, locate the high school they plan to attend and review the major areas of interest that will be available at that school. Students can complete an ePersonal Education Planner (ePEP), an interactive course planner for middle and high school students based on the major area of interest and on their educational goals. Students will be able to pre-enroll in a major area of interest, and once enrolled, a student may change his or her mind the following year with no penalty.

To view the list of major areas of interest or learn more about the ePEP visit