Florida education commissioner to resign

The Florida Department of Education just sent out a press release announcing the resignation of Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith. Below is a statement from Commissioner Smith, in which he makes clear his intention to “allow our newly elected Governor to have input through the State Board of Education on the type of leader to pursue his goals for education”:

This past weekend, I informed the members of the State Board of Education of my intention to resign as Florida’s Commissioner of Education effective June 10, 2011, the last day of this school year. It has been my privilege to serve as Commissioner during a period in which Florida demonstrated bold national leadership in the field of education. The time has come, however, to allow our newly elected Governor to have input through the State Board of Education on the type of leader to pursue his goals for education.

I am very proud of the significant accomplishments achieved by the hard work and aspirations of Florida’s students and educators during the past three years. The following are highlights:

• Florida was ranked 5th in the nation in the 2010 Quality Counts report by Education Week up from 31st in 2007, which tracks state policies and performance across key areas of education.
• Florida was one of only four states in the nation to improve significantly in both fourth and eighth grade reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), with significant gains for Florida’s African-American and Hispanic students outpacing their counterparts in the nation.
• Florida’s graduation rate climbed to 79 percent in 2010, a new high for our state, with significant increases for minority students.
• More than 120,000 students entered kindergarten better prepared in 2010 as a result of their participation in our state’s Voluntary PreKindergarten (VPK) program.
• In 2010, the number of AP exams administered to Florida’s public school students increased 19.5 percent and the number of students receiving a passing score on an AP exam jumped 14.5 percent. Because of this achievement Florida has the third highest number of students taking the AP exam compared to the nation and ranks fourth in the nation for the number of students scoring 3 or higher.
• At the same time, participation in Dual Enrollment coursework increased 18.4 percent, with a 12.2 percent increase in the number of students earning college credit in these courses.
• For the eighth year in a row, Community College Week’s 2010 annual top 100 report honored Florida’s state colleges with the top spots in terms of degrees earned.

While these are impressive achievements, over the past three years, we have also developed and have begun to implement the following strategies to drive future progress:

• In August 2010, Florida was named a winner in the Race to the Top competition, securing $700 million in federal funds to revolutionize the state’s education system.
• Last week, the Florida Legislature passed landmark legislation called the Student Success Act that will reform the teaching profession and allow our state to better attract and retain high-quality teachers and remove the low-performing teachers from the classroom.
• The Florida Department of Education took a leadership role nationally, developing Common Core Standards and now serves as the fiscal agent for the national consortium of states to develop assessments that will measure student performance on these standards.
• In 2010, legislation was enacted to require more rigorous graduation requirements to ensure that students leave high school better prepared for college and a career.
• A new high school grading formula was implemented that gives parents a more comprehensive look at their student’s school in terms of college and career readiness.
• Florida integrated federal and state requirements resulting in a reduction in reporting and a solid process was implemented to identify and support the state’s persistently low achieving schools.

The foundations are in place and the expectations are clear that Florida will be number one in education! The future is promising and very exciting for our students.

It has been an honor to serve both the State Board of Education as well as the members of the Florida’s Legislature. These individuals have made incredible efforts to build upon the bold education reforms established by Governor Jeb Bush allowing us to progress both quickly and successfully. It also has been a pleasure to work with the talented individuals in the Department of Education who continue to demonstrate commitment to serving students, parents and teachers of our wonderful state.

I thank the state of Florida for the privilege and honor to have served as its Education Commissioner. There always will be a special place in my family’s heart for this blessed state and its students.

Eric Smith

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit