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Superintendents’ group should spend more time on academics, next leader says

If schools can’t meet state expectations, all sorts of problems ensue, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning notes.
Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning becomes president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents in July. He wants to focus the group's attention on academics. [Times | 2016]
Published Jun. 14

For the past two years, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents has focused much of its attention on two key issues: Improving school security and expanding mental health services.

The group has held several summits and workshops seeking solutions to these critical concerns. Its leaders have pressed state officials to pay more attention.

Without diminishing the importance of those items, the next association president says he wants to redirect the conversation during his year at the helm.

“In the last two years, we have had very little conversation at our meetings about student achievement,” said Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning, who assumes the leadership post in July. “We need to bring it back into balance.”

Browning noted the state has taken an increasing tough line with schools that do not meet academic expectations, as measured by annual exams. Lawmakers have removed the district-managed turnaround as an option for schools that persistently score poorly in the state grading and accountability system, he observed, while they also have eased the way for alternative models to open.

The State Board of Education and commissioner Richard Corcoran made clear at a recent meeting, which Browning attended, their willingness to ask for expanded powers of their own to commandeer schools or districts that repeatedly fail to rise to state standards.

“We cannot not talk and discuss what we are doing in our own districts to ensure the kids are getting the very best education they can get,” Browning said.

He said he previewed his thoughts to the organization during its meeting this week in Tampa, and planned to roll out specifics moving forward. His comments came at the same time Browning and his administration are attempting to add new programs to several Pasco County schools, primarily in low-income areas, that have struggled to make significant improvements in their results.

The state at the same time is working to revise standards, under a directive from Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove the Common Core from Florida.

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