Will Florida hold hands as it races to the top?
It’s still not clear what program or initiative Florida will pursue when it applies for the federal Race to the Top funds, Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith told The Gradebook a few minutes ago. But whatever Florida tries, it will involve input from a variety of stakeholders, including the Legislature, the governor’s office, the state Board of Education, school districts and unions, he said.
The U.S. Department of Education is “looking for states that have been able to move away from education being an argument about adult issues and to focus on the needs of kids,” said Smith, one of five people invited by Education Secretary Arne Duncan to speak at today’s kick-off. (Here's his speech.) “Our effort is going to be to reach out to various groups and truly make this a state application.”
Smith said Florida will fashion an application that’s in synch with Duncan’s four core areas of reform. But he said the state won’t be able to narrow down possibilities until it receives the application guidelines, perhaps as early as Monday. Even then, he said, a Florida proposal could head in a number of different directions.
He said the Department of Education has already talked about the application with the Florida Virtual School and Take Stock in Children. He said it has talked with officials in other states. He said there have been conversations about “the role of community.”
“Is there a way we can help support community engagement around a struggling school so that it becomes not just what happens within the walls?” he said.
“What I think is very important is that it’s a comprehensive approach,” he continued. “It’s not, ‘Hey in Florida we’re going to go for a longer school day.’ It might be a piece of it, but it wouldn’t be the only thing we do.”
The Gates Foundation and the Parthenon Group have offered to help Florida put together the application, Smith added.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter