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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

United Way to hold e-summit on effective teaching



If you're hearing more about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in various parts of Florida lately, that's no coincidence.

While Hillsborough's $100-million grant for teacher development and evaluation has gotten most of the attention, the foundation has quietly been helping to boost public awareness and support for such efforts through a separate, $4 million grant to 14 local United Way groups across the nation.

Tomorrow that effort comes into full view in Florida with a statewide online summit on teacher effectiveness.

"Our goal is to help create a system that empowers our teachers," said Victoria Zepp, a spokesperson for the United Way of Florida. "To ensure that all our students, regardless of where you live or how you live, have access to a highly effective teacher."

During the online summit, she said, participants will learn about Gates efforts in Hillsborough and other districts, and receive research-based information about teacher preparation, career development, retention, evaluation, and placement. There will also be talk about what communities can do to support such efforts.

"We’re trying to get support for whatever is needed for reforms," Zepp said. "What we’re trying to do is have the community (support) along the way so this isn’t some sort shocker."

Gates spokesman Chris Williams said the foundation doesn't engage in political lobbying or try to influence specific legislative change.

"These are advocacy grants for work at the state and federal level to promote effective teaching," he said. "Helping the community understand what effective teaching is about and what it means."

But with Florida legislators mulling their own plans on teacher evaluation, compensation and tenure protections, it's clear that the United Way's Gates-funded awareness campaign could have an impact on the political process here.

United Way consultant Mary Gamble said the summit, along with similar events around the state, could result in a "call to action." And legislators might learn a thing or two that could influence their decisionmaking.

"Because legislators are one of the groups of stakeholders," she said. "Certainly educating and informing legislators, it could develop in that direction."

Zepp said the online summit is open to anyone, including teachers, parents, and members of the business community. But those who wish to participate must register in advance in order to learn about the online conferencing system. For more information and to register, visit

More from a recent press release:

“It is essential that teachers begin to experience first-hand the value of empowerment to support student learning and become leaders in their own professional world”, shared Dr. Arnhilda Badia, Legislative Liaison. 

This summit is one in a number of Empowering Effective Teachers Movement events that UWOF is helping to spearhead.  UWOF Listening Sessions, Teacher Forums and other public gatherings have been held and will be continue to collect voices of Floridians from across our great state.  

“Regardless of location or the social strata of the extremely diverse people we sat down with, Floridian’s want to rally for the future of their schools, neighborhoods, and their communities–some just aren’t sure ‘how or what’ to advocate for,” said Victoria Zepp of Zepp Strategic Partners ... The Virtual Summit and United Way of Florida’s Empowering Effective Teachers efforts (are) made possible by a grant from United Way Worldwide funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Summit goals include:
§  Support statewide community conversations by creating an alliance and forum where Floridians, from state capital policymakers to urban district administrators to rural neighbors, can interact to collectively recognize the many needs, resources and gaps that exist to effectively prepare, support, encourage, and ensure teachers are ready and enabled to educate our students and prepare them for successful futures in our global knowledge society.
§  To broaden local community support and understanding on the varying degrees of contributions local people and groups across Florida can make as part of a collective community education vision.

Floridians care about children, their communities and the health of the state’s economy –that is clear. People want to cut through to the facts by talking openly in local discussions with their neighbors and state education experts to identify real needs and policies that must change to support teachers and students.  This virtual summit is another public forum opportunity for a wide cross-section of Floridian’s to meet on common themes related to policy and practice that support and encourage effective teachers’ for all our students. 

About the Grant. In January 2010, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected United Way network to assist in developing teacher effectiveness efforts. The foundation provided United Way Worldwide funding for Increasing Teacher Effectiveness Challenge Grants at 14 United Way offices in Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee to advance their efforts to positively impact education.   Florida’s four grantees are: United Way of Florida, United Way of Broward, United Way of Tampa Bay, and
United Way of Northeast Florida –Duval.

Time:  February 1, 2011 from 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Where: Delivered Completely Via the Web, MUST Register for Access Codes and Information
Facilitators:  Collaborative Laboratories. St. Pete College
Register:   EET Wiki or or
Who: Florida parents, students, educators, school board members, policy makers, business and community/faith-based participants.  Registration is free, but REQUIRED. Register online prior to the summit to receive log-in information. 

[Last modified: Monday, January 31, 2011 5:06pm]


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