Dr. Eric Smith
Florida Department of Education Tallahassee
[Photo: Ray Stanyard]
But Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith says school leaders across the state have successfully stepped up to the plate. “Each district and county has dealt with this its own way,” he reports. “We’ve seen a lot of success in producing very positive results with only moderate resources. We’re a resilient state, and our education system is filled with innovative and dedicated professionals. We’ve got the tools to keep progressing.”
One new tool under development, despite present financial challenges, is a pilot project called “Bright Beginnings.” It’s aimed at identifying a student’s individual learning style near the very beginning of his or her school career.
“We have to know which methods resonate with our youngest students, and which methods really don’t break through,” says Smith. “We’re hopeful this information will help teachers teach to each student’s strengths and help students work on their weaknesses.”
He believes raising students’ expectations and goals is a key factor in academic success. “We’re focused on raising the ceiling and [also] raising the floor in terms of expectations. Our students have come a long way, but we know they’re capable of even more.”
Smith reflects that while doing more with less is certainly a challenge, it’s not necessary to consider it a negative. “Challenges are only disguises for opportunity.”