High-Quality Education for Florida Students

Author: Pam Stewart, Commissioner, Florida Department of Education

March 18, 2015

Each day I arrive at the Florida Department of Education with one overarching goal in mind, to ensure all Florida students  receive a high-quality education that will equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college and a career.  Pamela Stewart Headshot

When I left the classroom and began working at the Department of Education about 10 years ago, Florida was among the worst in the nation for education. But in 2015, I’m happy to report that Florida is a national leader in education.  We are ranked seventh in the nation in K-12 academic achievement; our high school graduation rates are at an 11-year high, having risen 17 percentage points in that time; and we are the only state in the nation narrowing the achievement gap between African American and White students in both reading and math.

Our progress is not accidental. Florida has seen dramatic improvements in student performance in part because we hold our educators accountable for helping students achieve their best. In fact, the National Council on Teacher Quality has twice ranked Florida’s teacher quality policies the best in the nation. That means we are leading the nation in areas like retaining effective teachers, making sure new teachers enter the classroom well-prepared and identifying teachers who are helping students achieve more.

Yet, Florida’s colleges and employers still expressed concern that our graduates were not prepared for success in today’s rapidly evolving workplace. To address that problem, we adopted more rigorous academic standards to help students develop critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills that the 21st century workplace demands.

With new standards, it was then necessary to adopt a new statewide standardized assessment to accurately measure student achievement on the Florida Standards. At the beginning of March, Florida students began taking the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA). While these are new tests, it is important to know that Florida educators have been introducing the Florida Standards in classrooms since they were adopted in 2010, phased in over three years. Now we are asking students to show us what they have been learning.

The idea of showing evidence of your skill after a period of learning is not a radical concept. Think of a ballet recital. We have all been to performances where students of ballet show the dance knowledge they gained through a year of practicing skills. Some may be nervous, but the audience knows those who have attended classes and put forth their best efforts will have the tools they need for a successful performance.

Similarly, the FSA will ask our students to show the knowledge and skills they gained through the school year. This year is a year of change, and change brings challenges. But I want to reassure parents, students and educators that there is less of a change in content going from last year’s FCAT 2.0 to FSA than there was transitioning from FCAT to FCAT 2.0. Our educators have been preparing their students for their best performance and they are poised for success.

The students learning in Florida’s classrooms today are our state’s future innovators, visionaries and leaders. They deserve the best opportunities for success and with a strong commitment from Florida’s schools, teachers, parents and communities, students will be ready for their next great adventure.

To learn more about the Florida Standards Assessments, visit

Category: Education Issues

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