Joanie Blue: Florida public schools have a lot to celebrate

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 3:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 3:37 p.m.

As the new school year starts, no one is more eager for a new year of learning – and some of the exciting changes coming to public education – than this teacher! As both a teacher and a parent, I would like to offer some tips on how Florida parents can help their children have a successful school year.

First, have conversations about expectations, goal-setting and responsibilities with your child. Help your child recognize their role in accomplishing their learning goals. Be certain to address any concerns or fears students may have as they enter the new school year, and help them find ways of overcoming or minimizing those fears.

Next, find time to join your child at their school or school activities whenever possible. When children recognize a relationship between school and home, they tend to meet expectations in the classroom. This school-home relationship also improves student behavior, increases collaboration among parents and teachers, and heightens school morale.

Also, make sure your children stick to a healthy sleep schedule throughout school year. My own daughter always struggles with the annual bedtime and wakeup time adjustment. We have found that adhering to school-day routine, even on weekend nights, eases the stress of the overall transition.

Finally, familiarize yourself with the Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), the new statewide assessment which will replace the FCAT 2.0 and be taken by all students in grades 3-10. The Florida Standards are a set of higher standards that focus on improving critical thinking skills to ensure more successful outcomes for Florida students. These standards and assessments will help teachers and schools prepare Florida students to graduate from high school ready for college or a meaningful career. The Florida Department of Education has some great resources for parents to explore online.

This is why I and many of my peers strongly support the Florida Standards. These standards combine globally competitive rigor and Florida-specific input to fit the higher level of expectations and needs expressed by Florida educators, parents, students and community members. In other words, the Florida Standards will hold our children to expectations that will equip them with the knowledge and skills to succeed anywhere – in the Sunshine State or wherever their dreams may take them.

To date, Florida public education has a lot to celebrate. Between 1999 and 2010, Florida’s high school graduation rate increased by 21 percentage points. Our gains on the Nation’s Report Card between 1992 and 2011 ranked second in the United States, just after Maryland. And in a recent international student literacy test, Florida’s fourth graders ranked second in the world – and far above the national average – in reading achievement.

Florida’s progress reflects the outstanding work of educators, parents and students across our great state, but the story is just beginning. In the years to come, I am confident Florida can and will reach new heights. So as new, more rigorous tests and standards set in this year, let’s embrace them as what they truly are: a challenge to help our students achieve even greater excellence.

Joanie Blue is a teacher and parent in Hamilton County.

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