This week, the State Board of Education voted to keep Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart in her position for an additional year without opposition.
Under the state constitution, the State Board of Education is charged with the “supervision of the system of free public education” including who serves as the commissioner of education.
State Board of Education Chairwoman Marva Johnson praised Stewart for her efforts.
“The Florida Constitution charges the State Board with supervising the state’s public education system, and we take seriously this immense responsibility. Under Commissioner Stewart’s leadership, the Department has implemented policies that have enabled Florida students to reach unprecedented levels of achievement. I am grateful for her willingness to continue serving the people of Florida in this role, and I look forward to continuing to work with education leaders throughout the state in promoting students’ ongoing success,” Johnson said.
“Serving as Education Commissioner has been a highlight of my career, and I am honored to accept the State Board of Education’s invitation. When I first began teaching and in many of the years that followed, Florida consistently ranked toward the bottom of nearly every national education ranking, and it seemed an impossibility that Florida would ever rise to the top,” said Stewart on Thursday. “Today, as a result of our strong accountability system, the hard work of Florida educators at every level, and the ardent support of Governor Rick Scott, Florida leads the nation in a number of key education measures. Still, we remain committed to ensuring all Florida students have the chance to reach their full potential, and I appreciate the opportunity to continue advocating for the best interests of our students.”
The State Board of Education showcased Florida’s educational gains in recent years.
“The academic achievement of Florida’s students has been consistently improving for over two decades,” it noted. Florida’s graduation rate rose to 82.3 percent, an increase of 23.1 percentage points since 2003-04 and 1.6 percentage points over last year; Florida’s Hispanic students, Black students, and students who qualify for free and reduced lunch now rank number one among the 50 states in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Grade 4 Mathematics;Florida has made more progress than any other state in the nation in 2017, as the only state that showed significant improvement in three of the four NAEP assessments; Florida’s scores on 2018 statewide, standardized assessments showed continued improvement and demonstrated that the achievement gap is closing across many grade levels and subjects.
“The number of Florida school grades ‘D’ and ‘F’ was cut nearly in half last year and today, 57 percent of Florida schools are rated ‘A’ or ‘B’ and only 7 percent are rated ‘D’ or ‘F.’ Florida’s high school and middle school students earned almost 100,000 Career and Professional Education (CAPE) certifications in 2016-17; and Florida’s College System has had for the last five years multiple institutions recognized as winners or finalists in the Aspen Prize for College Excellence,” the Board continued.
Stewart has decades of experience in the classroom and as an administrator. Back in 2004, she was named deputy chancellor for educator quality for the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Public Schools. She was later deputy superintendent for academic services in St. Johns County before heading back to Tallahassee. In 2013, the State Board of Education named her to her current post.