Florida Council of 100 Unveils Plan to Improve Schools Across the State

On Wednesday, the Florida Council of 100 unveiled a look at education in the Sunshine State for the next 20 years.

The Florida Council of 100 released “Horizons 2040 Project: Grades PreK- 12” which looks at the education challenges and opportunities the state will face over the next two decades.

“Florida’s quality of education has improved steadily over the past 15 years, as shown by rising test scores and skyrocketing graduation rates. We are fortunate to have strong leadership in Tallahassee, through Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, to maintain the momentum. The Horizons plan offers recommendations to further strengthen schools for the next 20 years, including raising teachers’ salaries and expanding pre-kindergarten programs to all-day or summer programs where needed,” the Florida Council of 100 noted.

“As business leaders, we know that education is the building block of prosperity,’’ said John Kirtley, the chairman of the Florida Council’s K-12 Education Committee. “We want to ensure every student in Florida gets the education that prepares them for success for years to come.’’<

“We realized the need for a long-term approach that builds on the state’s five-year strategic plan,’’ said Rhea Law, an attorney with Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney and the former chair of the Florida Council of 100. “If we follow this blueprint, Florida will lead the nation in creating successful students equipped for life.’’

“Core academic areas like reading, math and science are absolutely vital,” said David Dyer, former president and CEO of Chico’s FAS and the Florida Council of 100 and the chair of the committee which handled much of the report. “But schools also must provide students with important life skills so they can become successful, productive citizens.”

After three years of work, including looking at some of the best public and private schools across the state, the report includes nine recommendations to boost education in Florida.

“After effective parenting, the main determinant of student success is having an outstanding teacher,” the Council noted about the report. “Yet average teacher pay in Florida is ranked 46thin the nation, and only about half of Florida teachers feel supported and encouraged. The report stressed the need for higher pay to recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers.”

The Council also offered the following recommendations as part of its findings:

Support teachers in meaningful ways. In addition to increasing teachers’ salaries so they’re competitive with those of other highly valued professions, Florida schools should devise ways to create an environment where teachers feel they have a voice and are part of a team.

Empower students to succeed.This includes teaching students life skills such as better decision-making and goal-setting; requiring school districts to offer options like career and technical schools; and creating a rigorous academic program that stretches students while providing a safe environment – a second “home” for learning — in which students aren’t afraid to fail.

Stay committed to high-quality standards. This includes demanding strong accountability and rigorous but appropriate assessments of students, teachers and schools; providing teachers and administrators with additional and ongoing training; and making teacher evaluations objective and related to student performance.

Improve the state’s voluntary PreK program. Currently, only about half of Florida’s voluntary PreK students test ready for kindergarten, and research shows that children who can’t read proficiently by grade 4 are four times more likely to eventually drop out of high school. Expanding PreK to all-day or summer for struggling students and ensuring their social-emotional health needs are met are two ways to help these students succeed.

Allow schools to practice mastery-based education. Under this approach, students have the opportunity to learn at their own pace, progressing when they are ready.

 

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