Dozens of the state's education leaders wrapped up Governor Rick Scott's three-day "Education Accountability Summit" on Wednesday after hours of intense discussion on the best paths forward to ensure Florida's students are prepared for success in college or a career.
"All of the participants and attendees share a common goal: Making sure that each child in Florida is prepared to succeed," said Governor Scott. "The discussion and ideas generated this week will guide our future decisions and steps we will take through either legislative proposals, action by the State Board of Education or executive action."
Governor Scott asked Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to lead the three-day session with a focus on four strategic priorities:
1. State Standards. Continuing to raise the bar on education standards, by including an emphasis on critical and analytical thinking, to drive continued improvement by Florida students;
2. State Standard Assessments. Ensuring the assessment that replaces the FCAT will accurately measure the more challenging standards that will be taught to our students, provides meaningful performance information to our students, is cost effective, results are timely provided and we do not unnecessarily become intertwined with the federal government.
3. School Grades. Improving our education accountability system to further ensure transparency and fairness while providing meaningful and useful information to our parents and educators about how our students and schools are performing; and
4. Teacher Evaluations. Understanding how our teachers are evaluated, ensuring transparency throughout the process and using a fair system to identify, recognize and reward our highly performing teachers.
Material from the Summit, including detailed discussion topics and presentations and final vision statements on the four topics, will be posted at http://www.fldoe.org/.
"The last three days represent a positive step and I'm grateful to the Governor for providing this opportunity for in-depth dialogue," said Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). "I was pleased to see support for our school grading system. We all agree the system needs to be easier to understand, more transparent and that the Legislature should lead on this endeavor. I'm looking forward to seeing this conversation continue as we work towards developing solutions we can explore during the upcoming committee weeks and session."
"Thanks to Governor Scott for bringing leaders together to provide input on the future of education in Florida," said House Speaker Will Weatherford. "Education is the great equalizer in our society, so it's important to make informed decisions regarding the next steps we will take. I look forward to reviewing the information that was presented at this education summit. Going forward, it will be helpful as we continue the improvements that Florida has experienced over the past decade."
Commissioner Stewart said the passion and depth of interest in the topic of school grades has already led to a richer and deeper understanding of the short-term need for stability and the long-term need for greater clarity on these important tools for parents.
"It was the clear consensus of the teachers, educators, business leaders and everyone participating this week that our focus should be on implementing Common Core State Standards for the 2014-15 school year," said Stewart. "It was also clear that tweaks and changes to our school grading system must be very carefully considered and weighed with the benefits of a clearer, long-term vision that can be implemented along with the new standards."
Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand thanked Governor Scott and the participants.
"An overview and summary of the meeting will be provided to all Board members so that we can consider the vision statements and recommendations made at the Summit," said Chartrand.
Participants -- invited by Governor Scott, Senate President Gaetz and House Speaker Weatherford with the help of education partners around the state -- exchanged a wide variety of ideas and agreed that the meeting was a valuable opportunity to focus on the ultimate goal of student success.
"The Summit has been extremely productive and the format designed for participants to take positive steps instead of arguing," said Dr. Juhan Mixon of the Florida Association of School Administrators.
"Considering the diversity of the participants, the results have been outstanding. The Summit was well worth the time and effort spent," said Dr. Wayne Blanton, president of the Florida School Boards Association.
"The discussion was excellent and will serve as the groundwork for the future," said St. Johns County Schools Superintendent Joe Joyner. "I was very pleased the collaborative process allowed all participants to come to consensus on these important issues."
"I hope that the diverse group of individuals present at the summit take advantage of the valuable information and discussions," said Alex Lopes, 2013 Florida Teacher of the Year. "My wish is they share their knowledge with those we represent and encourage them to buy into the visions we drafted together."
"The discussion was very pertinent to the education issues facing Florida today," said Sen. Bill Montford. "It is encouraging to see everyone discussing these important topics openly in a very productive manner."
"I think it's been very positive and educational for all of the participants the business community, the teachers, the superintendents and the legislators; we've all learned from each other," said Sen. John Thrasher. "We basically are resetting and refocusing to continue the positive things that have been successful for rising student achievement in Florida."
Eileen Segal of the Florida PTA said, "I applaud Governor Scott for including the Florida PTA in this historic education summit. It is important to our members that as we continue to further improve our great schools we have open communication between all groups interested in making decisions that are in the best interest of our students."
"This summit was a crucially important exercise and I want applaud Governor Scott's leadership in putting it together," said Rep. Erik Fresen. "It brought together stakeholders from every vantage point in our education system and provided them an opportunity to share their observations and suggestions. As a legislator, the summit has enriched my understanding and I look forward to taking Florida's great education system to even greater heights."
Rep. Marlene O'Toole said, "I want to thank Governor Scott for bringing such a diverse group together I have truly learned a lot and I believe that is true of everyone here. While there is still work to be done, the good news is that much consensus has been reached. We now have a clear starting point for this critical work ahead.".
Rep. Reggie Fullwood said, "This summit has been a step in the right direction. All of the key stakeholders were here and this has been a critical factor to move our education system to the next level. I am grateful to Speaker Weatherford for appointing me as a participant."
Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said, "Governor Scott set a tall order and high expectations that in seventy-two hours a diverse group of people were able to meet at the education accountability summit. By delivering on the Governor's expectations through reasonable, respectful, and legitimate solutions we will improve Florida's accountability system."
2014 Florida Teacher of the Year Dorina Sackman said: "I'm extremely grateful to Governor Scott for his vision in putting the Summit together. The diversity of the participants is very impressive and I am impressed by their willingness to share their views on these crucial issues in a meaningful and collaborative dialogue. There is so much more to education than I ever realized and I am a better teacher than I was before the Summit began."