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Daytona Beach News-Journal: Striving for accountability in public schools

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Florida has been at the cutting-edge of education reform since implementing the A+ plan for education in 1999.

In just a little over a decade, we have moved from a public education system that had no consistent method for assessing how our students were performing in school to a system which has demonstrated — through data — that more students are learning, the achievement gap between minority groups is closing and more students are graduating from high school.

This didn’t happen by accident and it didn’t happen overnight. It required a thoughtful and collective approach to setting standards for every grade level and every subject. These standards serve as a guide for what students are expected to know.

By using a consistent measurement tool, we have been able to assess how well all Florida students are doing compared to these standards and whether or not they are learning to the level they should. These assessments have also helped us determine which students and schools are doing well, and which may require a little extra help.

In the years since the A+ plan was first implemented, we’ve seen Florida dramatically improve in national test scores and rankings. However, the goal has never been to simply improve, but to create a world-class education system that provides every student with a high-quality education. It cannot be a stagnant process, but one that is constantly evolving and striving for greater levels of achievement.

Last month, the Florida Department of Education released school grades based on higher academic standards. It’s not the first time Florida has raised the bar on student performance and I hope it’s not the last. You don’t advance by standing still. The goal of our state’s education accountability system has always been to incrementally reach higher levels of academic success.

As the leader of one of the largest business trade associations in the state, this is incredibly important to me.

Florida’s talent and workforce pipeline starts in the classroom. We need to make sure students are prepared to have successful careers and Florida employers need to know they are going to have a well-prepared labor force for generations to come.

Associated Industries of Florida supports increased standards because we believe it is a necessary step toward ensuring Florida has the highly trained, highly skilled workforce needed to be competitive in the global economy and in the future. This is especially critical in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math; areas in which we have much work to do to improve and surpass other nations.

Additionally, the new standards better reflect the types of “real world” skills Florida students should be armed with in order to do well in college and be ready for their first jobs. Today, a high school diploma means much more than it did decades ago. Tomorrow, it will mean even more.

We must continue to set our sights higher if we are to propel Florida forward. Improving student performance is a critical piece of our vision to make Florida the best place in the nation — and world — to do business.

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