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Surprise, Surprise: Florida NCLB Plan Gets 'Thumbs Up' From Feds

MIAMI, Fla. -- Florida has completed work on its plan for a strong state accountability system aligned with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced today.

Paige made the announcement at Skyway Elementary School, where he was joined by Florida Commissioner of Education Jim Horne, teachers, parents, students and other local leaders."

Florida is building on a rich heritage of standards, assessments and accountability," Paige said. "In addition, this sunshine state has adopted their writing assessments as an additional measure of academic achievement, attesting to its commitment to high standards and academic excellence."

By offering parental choice and committing to a strong accountability system," Paige adds, "Florida has pledged to improve the quality of education for each child. I congratulate Commissioner Horne for taking these important steps. Florida's solid plans to implement the provisions of NCLB put the state firmly on the path to ensuring that no child is left behind."

Under NCLB's strong accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including disadvantaged students, achieve academic proficiency. In addition, they must produce annual state and school district report cards that inform parents and communities about state and school progress. Schools that do not make progress must provide supplemental services such as free tutoring or after-school assistance, take corrective actions and -- if still not making adequate yearly progress after five years -- must make dramatic changes to the way the school is run.

Florida is the 13th state to gain approval. Other states whose plans have been approved include Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia.

No Child Left Behind is the landmark education reform law designed to change the culture of America's schools by closing the achievement gap, offering more flexibility, giving parents more options and teaching students based on what works. Foremost among the four key principles is an insistence on stronger accountability for results. To achieve that, states must develop strong accountability systems or improve those already in place, establish high standards and hold all children to the same standards. They also must provide instruction by highly qualified teachers, which results in steady progress and, ultimately, proficiency for all students by the 2013-14 school year.

All states submitted draft accountability plans to the U.S. Department of Education by the Jan. 31 deadline. Following an initial review and technical assistance, if needed, the next step was on-site peer review of each state's proposed accountability plan. Teams of three peer reviewers -- independent, nonfederal education policy, reform or statistical experts -- conducted each peer review.

Following a review of the team's consensus report, the department provides feedback to the state and works to resolve any outstanding issues. Ultimately, Paige approves the state plan, as he did for Florida.

To date, all states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have had peer reviews of their accountability plans. Additionally, the senior staff of the Department of Education has met with education officials from the states to discuss the specifics of their plans and the unique challenges and issues in each state.

Despite all the priorities competing for our tax dollars, President Bush's budget boosts federal education funding to $53.1 billion -- an $11 billion increase since the president took office. Florida alone will receive more than $2.4 billion, including $960 million to implement NCLB. If the president's budget is approved, federal education funding for Florida will have gone up $521 million since he took office.

Paige Approves Florida State Accountability Plan Under No Child Left Behind
U. S. Department of Education Press Release
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/CFP/csas/index.html.
April 29, 2003


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