Patrica Levesque

Message from the Executive Director

A quality education can change a life.  It can break the cruel cycle of poverty and end generations of dependence on government.  It opens the door to opportunity and provides the skills for success after school.  An engaging and challenging education is the proven path to prosperity and a life-long love of learning.

Florida has made great strides to improve the quality of education.  A decade ago, the Sunshine State ranked at the bottom nationally.  Nearly one-third of third graders couldn’t read on grade level and close to half of fourth graders were functionally illiterate.  Too many students were dropping out of school, while those who stayed weren’t gaining the knowledge to succeed after graduation.

So much has changed since then.  Today, Florida’s elementary and middle school students are reading above the national average.  Math proficiency is on the rise.  More students are taking and passing rigorous courses that prepare them for college.  The graduation rate has jumped by double digits and fewer students are dropping out.

Our success was built on a foundation of core principles.  Starting with the A+ Plan in 1999 and continuing today, our reforms combine high expectations, standardized measurement, a clear and achievable system of accountability, rewards and consequences for performance, effective teaching in the classroom and more choices to customize education to each student.

The path to rising student achievement was not easy or painless.  In the first year schools were graded on the simple A-F letter scale, Florida had more Ds and Fs than As and Bs.  When Florida ended social promotion for third graders who couldn’t read, the retention rate skyrocketed. Every time we raised the bar, scores and grades dropped – for a time – but then slowly climbed back to the higher levels of achievement.

Thanks to the courageous leadership of the Florida Legislature, the state didn’t abandon reform when times got tough.  Instead, lawmakers focused on the long-term benefits of providing a quality education to every student in our state.  As a result, Florida did what few other states have accomplished – reversed a generation of decline in public schools.

The results of our reform prove what we have said for more than a decade – all students can achieve when schools are organized around the singular goal of learning.

While Florida is now a model for the nation, our job is far from done.  We must continue to reform education to keep the promise of a quality education for all Sunshine State students.  Join us today.