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Governor Scott's Educational Tour

September 10, 2012

Education and workforce development issues continue to be a top priority for the business community as Florida continues to work towards an economic recovery.  Recently, Governor Scott announced that he is embarking on a 10-city educational listening tour in order to best understand the needs of our students, our schools, parents, and the workforce needs of our employers.  Please take a moment to read this letter from Governor Scott explaining his decision to undertake this important mission. 

Associated Industries of Florida commends Governor Scott for his commitment to our school children and to making our state’s
K-12 school system the very best it can be.  We look forward to the results of this listening tour and to working alongside Governor Scott on continuing his educational reform efforts.

September 10, 2012

Mr. Thomas Feeney, III
President and CEO
Associated Industries of Florida
516 North Adams Street
Tallahassee, Florida  32301

Dear Mr. Feeney,

            As a parent and a grandparent, I know that the most important thing we can do for our kids is to make sure they have the opportunity to get an education.  This is how they will be able to live the American Dream.  As I have traveled the state, every family I have talked with has told me about their desire to see their kids and grandkids find success.  When I was younger, my education allowed me to get ahead and to find better jobs and opportunities.  After attending community college, I decided to serve in the United States Navy because I wanted to serve my country.  Later, I continued my education in law school.  Every level of my education prepared me for better jobs and opportunities, and I used what I learned to build successful businesses.

            Today, I will begin a 10-city listening tour to engage teachers, parents and students in a dialogue about the future of K-12 education in our great state.  This week is about listening to those who are most integral to classroom performance and can achieve our goal:  to make certain that every student who leaves our schools is prepared for college and a career.  Teachers, parents and students are critical in making sure that we are able to grow jobs and opportunities in our state.

            Florida’s education system is something to be proud of.  Florida earned the highest overall grade in the nation for teacher quality from the National Council on Teacher Quality.  Hispanic students in Florida led the nation in graduation rates in the 2012 Diplomas Count report.  Ten of Newsweek’s top 100 public high schools are in Florida, with two placing in the top ten.  Four of Florida’s high schools rank in the top 10 of US News & World Report’s top magnet schools.  Our reading and accountability policies are models for other states.  These accomplishments show reform efforts have worked, but our work to better prepare our students for college and careers is not complete.

            Having spent my entire career as a businessman, education was critical for me to find opportunities for myself and to hire well-prepared employees.  To say that education is the engine that will drive our ability to be the number one destination for business to open, expand and relocate is certainly an understatement.  I hear this every day as I talk to leaders like you, and I know it was certainly true for me in my experiences in business. 

            In order for us to ensure that our education system is meeting those goals, we must listen to our teachers, parents and students to be sure that all of us have a clear understanding of what we need and how we can achieve our goals.  Heading into this week, it is important that we approach these conversations with a set of clear principles to guide our decisions.  Listed below are six common-sense, but meaningful, principles that can add clarity to our path to the future of education in Florida.  Each of these stem from our primary goal of readiness for college and careers.  I am hopeful that the meetings this week with teachers, parents and students will help us develop a clear action plan to ensure students have the opportunity to find jobs, have successful careers, build families in Florida and live the American Dream. 

Strengthening education:  preparing students for college and careers
While this may seem simple, the purpose of our education system must ultimately lead our children to successful career opportunities, whether immediately after high school or post-secondary education.  This is the reason we send our children to school and the reason the state must continue to support education in our state.

  • Link everything we do to preparation for college and careers
    If preparing students for college and careers is our goal, then we must be absolutely sure that every decision we make in education supports this goal.  Policy, budget, assessment and accountability initiatives must reflect and support our students’ need to graduate from high school ready for the next step.
  • Maintain strong accountability measures that are fair, clear and consistent
    Measurement must have consequences in order for us to continually improve and allow our students to compete with their peers around the world.  It is our duty however, to hold teachers and students accountable to the goal we are trying to accomplish.  If the goal is fair and clear – preparing students for college and careers – then the accountability system to meet that goal must also be fair and clear.  Further, we must remain consistent in our application of accountability, or the consequences will not help us to achieve our goal.
  • Make assessments purposeful, diagnostic and applicable
    As a businessman, my employees constantly improved through measurement and the same holds true for our students.  Measurement is the only way to know if we are achieving our goals.  Measurements must have a purpose, however.  They are always most useful when they are purposeful, diagnostic and applicable.  Do assessments measure what we need our students to learn to be successful in college and careers?  Do they offer teachers, parents and students useful feedback to identify where we need extra effort to improve?  Do our assessments measure a student’s ability to apply what they have learned for future success?  All of these are critical questions that must be addressed through our accountability system.
  • Reward teachers who make student achievement possible
    Teachers are the critical link to the success of those initiatives, and their progress in advancing student achievement must be measured and rewarded.  We cannot declare war on teachers and simultaneously ask them to drive our students toward success.  We must work with teachers to declare war on failure.  We must measure outcomes and reward success.  This is what always worked for me in business, and it is certainly applicable in education.
  • Empower parents to improve student outcomes
    Parents invest the most in the future success of their kids.  Parents must be an active and integral part of this equation, both in the process of learning and in strategic decision making about our education system.  By focusing at home on the goal of preparing their kids for success in college and careers, parents can reinforce the work that happens in our schools every day.
  • Provide choices and competition to parents and students
    Choices and competition in educating students for success in college and careers should be encouraged and held accountable to ensure the best options are available to Florida students regardless of where they live.  Just as in business, competition drives innovation and improvement.  Programs that succeed should be replicated and feel pressure to constantly improve.
    Please allow me to conclude by expressing my sincere gratitude to you for the important role you play in making Florida the best place for business.  I look forward to sharing the conversations from this week with teachers, parents and students, so that we can all move forward together to create jobs and opportunities in our state.  I would appreciate your thoughts and ideas on ways to make sure every Florida family can live the American Dream.



    Rick Scott