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2021 Florida Department of Education Major Accomplishments

December 27, 2021

FDOE Press Office

2021 Florida Department of Education Major Accomplishments
~ Florida is the Education State ~

Tallahassee, Fla., December 27, 2021 – As we approach 2022, the Florida Department of Education is proud to highlight the following accomplishments and successes of 2021. Governor DeSantis continues to deliver on his promises by ensuring every student in Florida receives a world-class education. Without question, students, parents, and teachers are all benefiting from Governor DeSantis’ vision to continue proving Florida is the Education State.

“Governor DeSantis is the most pro-student, pro-parent and pro-teacher Governor in the entire nation,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Florida’s educational success has been driven by the passion and dedication of our school districts, devoted educators, students and their families. By focusing our efforts on protecting parents’ rights, committing massive funding to education, investing in higher salaries for our educators, eliminating Critical Race Theory from our classrooms, focusing on improving student literacy and working to eliminate achievement gaps, we are setting students up for future success as we continue towards our goal of having the #1 education system in the nation.”

Protecting Parents’ Rights and the Rule of Law

  • Governor DeSantis signed the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which enumerates parental rights with respect to children for education, health care, and criminal justice. The bill prohibits the state, its political subdivisions, any other governmental entities and any other institutions from infringing upon the fundamental right of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of his or her minor child. School districts must also adopt notification procedures for specific parental rights.
  • Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, and with the support of the Legislature, the Florida Department of Education and State Board of Education successfully fought to ensure that every school district complies with Florida law. These efforts protected parents’ rights to make personal and private educational and health care choices for their children in a school setting.
  • In November, Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by Florida Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson to sign legislation that will protect Floridians from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and protect parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions for students. The bills were passed through a Special Session of the Florida Legislature and became effective upon the Governor’s signature. The legislation signed is the strongest pro-freedom, anti-mandate action taken by any state in the nation.
  • Governor DeSantis continued to ensure in-person instruction was guaranteed to families 5 days per week during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years.
  • Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 7045 that will provide more education opportunities for children from low-income families and students with unique abilities. The bill expands eligibility for low-income students, prioritizes military, foster, and adopted students and empowers military families to maximize their school choice options by exempting the dependents of a member of the United States Armed Forces from any limitations of waitlists or maximum scholarship program enrollment.
  • In an effort to continue to protect parents’ rights to choose the best educational environment for their children, the Florida Department of Education acted with urgency to amend the Hope Scholarship rule to clarify that COVID-19 harassment was an acceptable condition to determine a student’s eligibility for the program.

Financially Supporting Public Education

  • Secured the highest ever per-pupil spending totals at $7,795 per student in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
  • Secured the highest ever K-12 public school funding, with $22.8 billion in state and local funding.
  • Received and implemented a $53.42 per student increase to the Base Student Allocation for the Florida Education Finance Program.
  • Ensured that school districts were held harmless from any reduction in funding as a result of decreased enrollment due to the pandemic.

Ongoing Investment in Florida’s Teachers

  • Governor DeSantis announced a total of $765 million in funding to support Florida’s teachers. These investments include $550 million to continue elevating minimum teacher salaries raising the minimum salary by an average of $6,000 over the past year from $40,000 to $46,000 and $215 million to provide all of Florida’s eligible public school principals and teachers with $1,000 disaster relief payments.
  • More than 75,000 child care and early learning educators working with approximately 9,500 providers received $1,000 disaster relief checks. These payments were provided to qualified instructors in recognition of their continuing service and dedication to Florida’s children and families.

Improving Florida’s Low Performing Schools

  • Florida’s most vulnerable students at our most fragile schools beat the odds by increasing their performance during the pandemic.
    • 54 out of 132 traditional public schools actually improved their performance to a “C” or better, allowing them to exit the state’s school improvement system.
  • The Florida Department of Education awarded $44 million in federal Unified School Improvement Grant (UniSIG) funds to support 149 struggling schools in 29 districts. The funds provided through UniSIG will be used to support school improvement initiatives in Florida’s lowest performing 5% of schools.
    • Teachers at these low performing schools who have earned highly effective or effective ratings can receive up to $15,000.
    • Principals may qualify for up to $45,000 for recruitment/retention and performance, and one assistant principal from each school may also qualify for $10,000 for recruitment/retention.

Improving Educational Standards and Student Achievement

  • At the direction of Governor DeSantis, the State Board of Education adopted rules to keep social justice indoctrination, including Critical Race Theory, out of the classroom in order to foster an environment where students can be protected from being influenced or indoctrinated to think a certain way and to ensure students can receive classroom instruction that is factual and objective.
  • In 2020, Florida adopted the new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts to begin the process of eliminating Common Core from Florida’s classrooms. As a follow up, Governor DeSantis announced a legislative proposal that will eliminate the common-core based, end-of-year, high-stakes Florida Statewide Assessment and create the new Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (F.A.S.T) plan, which will monitor student progress and foster individual growth. With this transition to statewide progress monitoring for school accountability, Florida will restore the ability for parents and teachers to have impactful conversations about students’ growth and inform parents’ ability to help their children.
  • The State Board of Education adopted new student performance standards that will strengthen Florida’s already nationally-recognized education standards. The standards approved include Holocaust Education, Civics and Government, Character Education and Substance Abuse Prevention.
  • Florida vaulted to #2 in the nation for successful Advanced Placement (AP) performance, with 34.2 percent of the graduating class of 2020 scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam while in high school, according to the 2020 AP Cohort Data Report from the College Board.
    • Florida students exceeded the national average (24.4 percent) by nearly 10 percentage points, bypassed Massachusetts (34.0 percent) and is second only to Connecticut (34.5 percent).
    • Florida is the #1 state in the nation for having the highest AP exam participation rate.
    • Florida has eliminated the AP participation and performance gap for its Hispanic students. Hispanic students made up approximately 32 percent of the 2020 graduating class in Florida, yet they accounted for 37.5 percent of AP exam takers and 41.6 percent of the graduates scoring 3 or higher on an AP exam during high school.
    • At an average rate of $212.33 per credit hour, the total potential cost savings for Florida’s students and families was $146,782,243.
  • Florida continues to shine with its national ranking as third in the nation for K-12 Achievement for the second year in a row according to a new 2021 Quality Counts report by Education Week.
  • Florida outperforms the nation in 15 of 18 K-12 Achievement measures.
  • Florida is ranked 2nd for improving the high school graduation rate.
  • Florida is ranked 3rd for improvement in grade 4 mathematics.
  • Florida is ranked 4th for improvement in grade 8 reading.
  • Florida is ranked 4th for improving the grade 4 poverty gap.
  • Florida is ranked 6th for proficiency in grade 4 mathematics.
    • Florida is ranked 6th in the nation for improving high advanced placement test scores.
  • Florida is ranked 7th for the size of its grade 4 reading poverty gap.
  • Florida is ranked 7th for improving the grade 8 poverty gap.
  • Florida is ranked 8th for improvement in grade 4 reading.
    • Florida is ranked 8th in the nation for successful grade 11 and 12 advanced placement test scores.
  • Florida urgently supported our schools to assess every child's learning gains and learning losses by providing flexibility to ensure as many students as possible could be tested in Spring 2021. As a result, we successfully tested nearly 94 percent of students on statewide assessments.

Increasing Focus on Student Literacy and Early Learning

  • Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida is investing $270 million in literacy initiatives throughout the state. On June 29, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 3, creating the “New Worlds Reading Initiative,” Florida’s first statewide book distribution program.
    • Through this new program, children in kindergarten through fifth grade who are reading below grade level are eligible to receive free, high-quality books delivered directly to their home.
  • In early May, Governor DeSantis signed two bills, HB 419 and HB 7011, which make numerous advancements to the delivery of high-quality early learning supports and accountability for early learning education and child development, allow districts to use existing allocations to fund intensive interventions for Prekindergarten students, create a coordinated system of statewide literacy support and create a new initiative to recruit high school rising juniors or seniors to serve as literacy tutors for struggling Kindergarten through third grade students.
  • Florida continues to invest in literacy efforts with:
    • $5 million to upskill literacy coaches to accelerate improvement in teacher practice and create a literacy coach designation on teacher certification.
    • $11.5 million to create a regional structure of State Regional Literacy Directors to support districts and schools with improving literacy outcomes. These funds are used to support the implementation of K-12 Comprehensive Evidence-based Reading Plans, build capacity of district and school literacy leadership teams, and provide training and support for the Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking ELA Standards grounded in the science of reading, among other uses.
    • $5 million to establish two high-quality Reading Endorsement Pathways.
    • $20 million to create a High-Quality Reading Curriculum Grant to support Local Education Agencies throughout Florida with high-quality reading curriculum that is evidence-based, targeted to elementary schools with the greatest achievement gap, and implemented for K-3 students who have been identified with a reading deficiency or a substantial deficiency in reading and therefore in need of instructional support.

Emphasizing Civics and Constructive Debate

  • The Florida Civics and Debate Initiative (FCDI) has expanded from 11 districts to 48 districts in the first year of operation, with 161 teams statewide.
  • Held the first National Civics & Debate Championship, a three-day competition with more than 150 participating students representing 26 teams.
  • Governor DeSantis announced $106 million to establish the Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative. The funding will be used to create and award qualified teachers with the Florida Civics Seal of Excellence, which includes a $3,000 stipend for educators who complete training to earn the endorsement.
  • Governor DeSantis signed HB 5, SB 1108 and HB 233 that will collectively strengthen civics instruction and civics literacy education in Florida’s kindergarten through postsecondary public schools.
    • House Bill 5 requires the Florida Department of Education to create an integrated K-12 civic education curriculum that includes an understanding of citizens' shared rights and responsibilities under the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
    • Senate Bill 1108 requires state college and state university students to take both a civic literacy course and a civic literacy assessment as a graduation requirement, bridging civics education between our high schools and postsecondary institutions.
    • House Bill 233 requires state colleges and universities to conduct annual assessments of the viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom at their institutions to ensure that Florida’s postsecondary students will be shown diverse ideas and opinions, including those that they may disagree with or find uncomfortable.

#1 Ranked Higher Education System

  • The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among community colleges. Each year since its inception in 2011, a Florida College System has either won the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence or earned recognition as a finalist or finalist with distinction.
    • In 2021, 14 FCS were included in the Top 150 U.S. Community Colleges and are eligible to compete in 2022 for the $1 million national prize from the Aspen Institute.
  • Florida was ranked as the #1 system for higher education in the nation for the 5th straight year by U.S. News and World Report.
    • U.S. News and World Report has placed Seminole State College and St. Petersburg College in the Top 25 in categories for Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, Top Public School and Top Performer in Social Mobility.
  • Florida College System institutions have welcomed and enrolled 78,000 active duty military personnel, veterans, members of the reserves, spouses and dependents.
  • Student costs at Florida College System institutions remain very stable and affordable with an average cost of $3,207 for 30 semester hours of credit.
  • Florida College System institutions awarded 130,545 degrees and certificates during 2020-2021, and 88 percent of graduates were employed or continuing their education in Florida the year after graduation.
  • The State Scholarship and Grants Programs distributed more than a billion dollars to nearly 294,000 student scholars, averaging $3,710 per recipient.

Advancing Mental Health

  • First Lady Casey DeSantis announced an expanded Hope for Healing website that makes it easier for Floridians to access help for mental health and substance abuse. The new site is an aggregator of federal, state, local, private sector, faith-based and non-profit mental health resources, and is designed to be updated as additional resources are made available.
  • First Lady Casey DeSantis announced that 100 Florida schools have started Hope Ambassadors Clubs in 39 school districts. This announcement represents a 300% increase from the 25 Florida schools that participated during the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Secured $120 million for the Mental Health Assistance Allocation to support school mental health programs, an increase of $20 million.

Accelerating Career and Adult Education

  • Governor DeSantis signed three transformative workforce education bills:
    • Signed House Bill 1507, also known as the Reimagining Education and Career Help (REACH) Act:
      • This bill creates a “no-wrong-door” strategy whereby Floridians may access services from any workforce partner;
      • This bill requires our workforce agencies, DEO, DOE and CareerSource to collaborate with business and industry to create a state-approved list of credentials, so that Florida will always align workforce training with workforce demands.
      • This bill creates the Open Door Workforce Grant Program, including a $35 million appropriation, for school districts and state colleges to cover two-thirds of the cost of short-term, high-demand programs.
      • This bill massively raises the bar for quality in workforce programs and measuring their success, and even creates a “Money-Back Guarantee Program” to truly incentivize the investment of our workforce training programs in the Floridians who they are educating.
      • In addition, this bill creates true accountability and coordination of these programs, including the creation of the REACH Office within the Governor’s Office to oversee this coordination and measurement.
    • Signed Senate Bill 52:
      • First, this bill creates the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program, with a $15.5 million appropriation, to close gaps for many tens of thousands of high school students who struggled to access dual enrollment opportunities year-round at Florida’s state colleges and universities.
      • Second, this bill aligns the purpose of collegiate high schools to mean structured high school acceleration towards an associate’s degree, which represents an incredible college and career boost for any high school student in an early college program.
    • Signed Senate Bill 366:
      • This bill eliminates a barrier for work-based learning and apprenticeship programs by deeming students to be employees for purposes of workers’ compensation.
      • This bill creates three math pathways common to all state postsecondary institutions, aligning math courses to programs, majors and careers, to in particular benefit our students in state colleges and universities who are preparing for STEM-related careers.
      • This bill removes barriers to enrollment and placement of students in state colleges, including dual enrollment, to increase credential attainment.
      • This bill also expands Florida Private Student Assistance Program grant award to full-time certificate-seeking students at an aviation maintenance school.
  • Governor DeSantis announced awardees of the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant, $10 million awarded to school districts, colleges, state universities and private training entities to start or expand registered apprenticeship and preapprenticeship programs throughout the state.
  • Increased the number of apprenticeships by nearly 10 percent since 2019-2020.
    • Over 3,300 participating employers training 91 apprenticeable occupations.
    • Registered more than 30 new programs in 2020-2021, for a total of over 300 programs, training more than 16,000 apprentices.
  • Celebrated the 1-year anniversary of the Governor’s launch of Get There – Florida’s Workforce Education Initiative.
  • Increased the number of Florida completers of Associate of Science, Career Certificate, College Credit Certificate and Apprenticeship students by more than 3,000 (nearly 5 percent) in 2020-2021.
    • 60,598 completers in 2019-2020 as compared to 63,631 in 2020-2021.

Creating Safe and Healthy Learning Environments

  • Over $5,000,000 in Guardian funding for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program in the 45 districts implementing Guardians within their schools and/or charter schools.
  • $42,000,000 is available to support the improvement of safety and security of district (and charter school) school buildings.
  • $3,500,000 is available to provide contracted professional security guards at Florida Jewish Day Schools.
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