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PRESS RELEASE

February 8, 2007

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Commissioner Winn Announces New Education Resource Available To Florida Families
~Free DVD answers parents’ questions and provides information on Florida’s public schools~

TALLAHASSEE – Education Commissioner John L. Winn today announced that Florida families have a new resource to help them understand and navigate the state’s public education system. Endorsed by the Florida PTA and the Florida Association of Partners in Education (FAPE), the free “Your Child Your Public Schools” DVD provides an overview of Florida public schools and aims to answer many of parents’ “frequently asked questions” on topics from annual assessments to school grades. In addition, the DVD offers parents and guardians advice on how to get involved in their child’s education. The primary focus is on Prekindergarten through high school.

“Every student in Florida deserves a quality education. Every parent is entitled to simple, easy-to-use information that will allow them to help their child succeed in school,” said Governor Charlie Crist. “My thanks to the principals, teachers, parents and students who opened their schools and homes up to the Department of Education so they could create this new resource.”

Joining Commissioner Winn at today’s press conference were State Board of Education member Donna Callaway, south Florida parent Renae Atmore, Duval County teacher Chip Leonard, Florida PTA President Lenelle Cruse, Florida Association of District School Superintendents CEO Bill Montford, Florida Association of Partners in Education officials and Panhandle Area Education Consortium staff members.

“Parents are students’ first teachers, and it is essential that they join with classroom teachers to take an active role in their child’s education. However, for parents to get involved, they first need to be informed,” said Commissioner Winn. “This DVD demystifies many education topics about which parents may not have had access to accurate, reliable information. Getting parents more engaged with their child’s education is one of the most important ways to make sure students achieve academic success.”

Nearly three million copies of the DVD will be distributed to schools and community organizations through each school district’s volunteer coordinator. Shipments of the DVDs will arrive at district volunteer coordinators’ office in stages. Prekindergarten students and students in grades 2, 3, 5, 8 and 9 will be among the first to receive DVDs to take home to their parents or guardians. Additional grade levels will receive copies of the DVD as new shipments arrive. The Florida PTA is also partnering in the effort by giving out copies through local chapters of the association.

“I applaud Governor Crist, Commissioner Winn, and DOE for the production of such a powerful tool for parents and families,” said Cruse. “Parent involvement is critical in the educational success of students. The DVD is a family-friendly tool that will educate parents on how to help their children be successful in school.”

The DVD was filmed at school sites and in the homes of families throughout the state. Parents appearing in the DVD share information about their experiences with Florida schools and personal approaches to their children’s education. Information is also presented by principals, school administrators and teachers, many of whom have been Florida or district teachers of the year.

“Resources like this DVD are a valuable tool for parents to become comfortable with the Florida educational system and will allow them to further assist their students in achieving the highest level of education possible,” said Atmore. “The DVD will assist them in knowing what is going on with their child's education as well as becoming better equipped to ask the right questions when speaking with their child's teachers and school administrators.”

About two hours in total length, the “Your Child, Your Public Schools” DVD is broken into five “buttons” or sections that address the following topics:

  • First Stop: Families – This part of the program helps families understand their role in their child’s education. It includes testimonies from parents about how to get involved. There are strategies for communicating effectively with teachers and getting relevant information to make education decisions right for their child.
  • Inside School Grades – Many Floridians use the state’s grading system to determine the success of a school, but few really understand the calculations. This portion of the program clearly explains how school grades are determined and what the grades mean.
  • FCAT Essentials – The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is an annual test given to students in grades 3 through 10 and measures how well students are meeting learning objectives outlined in the Sunshine State Standards. This section gives the “essentials” or simple, basic facts about the test, the testing schedule, and most importantly, how to understand a student’s score.
  • Your Child, Your Choices! – Public education in Florida is not a one-size-fits-all system. Parents have many quality options to choose from when educating their child from public school choice, private school choice, virtual education or home education. The DVD also provides valuable information about special services offered by public schools, such as exceptional student education and services for migrant students.
  • Success Adds Up! – A key component of Florida’s education system is measuring how well students are learning. In Success Adds Up!, parents will find out how students are doing in reading, writing and mathematics and how they compare with students across the nation.

Each “button” includes several sub-sections, which viewers can scroll through and select. The DVD is designed so parents can choose to view as many or as few sections as they wish. It may be played in a DVD player, as well as a computer. When played on a computer, special “Web Alerts” link viewers directly to additional information on the Department of Education website. The DVD content is also available on the Internet at http://www.fldoe.org/parentdvd.

"Both parents and students will find the Department of Education’s "Your Child Your Public Schools" DVD a valuable resource in building a better understanding of public schools,” said Montford. “We highly recommend that families view and discuss the DVD together."

Prior to developing the DVD, the Department of Education conducted focus groups in different areas of the state to identify what information about Florida’s education system parents were most interested in. A script was developed based on the findings from the focus groups and the personal perspectives shared by teachers, parents and stakeholders from different communities.

“As a teacher in the school my daughter attends, I have every critical piece of information I need about her educational path,” said Leonard who teaches at Samuel W. Wolfson High School. “Every parent in Florida should have equal access to the same information I do, so they can help their children make informed decisions about their future. This DVD help makes every parent an informed advocate for their child and an educational insider.”

Those interested in a copy of the DVD may contact their child’s school or district volunteer coordinator. The Department of Education will work in collaboration with the Florida PTA, FAPE and local school districts on marketing efforts to promote the availability of the DVD.