Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced another $289 million in funding for educational programs to help close achievement gaps, improve STEM education and boost student resiliency.
DeSantis announced the funding at a news conference at the City of Hialeah Educational Academy Wednesday morning..
The funding includes $105 million for after-school and summer learning camps to help struggling students catch up, $47 million for primary materials aligned to Florida's new standards for English, math, civics and Holocaust education, $50 million to support reading intervention and professional development for reading coaches, $44 million to support STEM and hands-on learning programs, $22.5 million for resources to help parents be more involved in their children's education, and $5 million to establish regional mental health resiliency teams that serve students.
"We're gonna maintain our commitment to high standards and academic performance but we're gonna do it in a way that's really gonna provide meaningful feedback for teachers and parents, it's gonna help students," DeSantis said.
Money will go to district and charter schools and comes from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, DeSantis said.
On Tuesday, DeSantis signed a bill to replace the current Florida standardized testing in public schools with assessments taken throughout the year to better gauge individual student progress.
The tests will be given at the beginning, middle and end of the school year so teachers can better assess how students are doing in English and math. DeSantis said the testing will take less time than the current Florida Standards Assessments.
“We can get the same information from the FSA in a much shorter period of time and in a way to get really quick feedback for parents, teachers and students,” DeSantis said. “Under the FSA, students, parents and teachers would receive the results after the school year. Well, it was too late to do anything about that. How are you going to remediate if you see problems?"
The bill was a priority for DeSantis, who announced the proposal last September.
Testing results from the fall and winter must be provided to teachers within a week and within two weeks to parents. Testing will take place on computers, unless there's a specific need for a child to take a paper test.
“By eliminating FSA and transitioning to progress monitoring, we are really going to help bolster the conversations between parents and teachers so they can work together to make sure our kids succeed,” DeSantis said.
The Florida Education Association said in a news release that it was hopeful when DeSantis announced plans to eliminate the Florida Standards Assessment but is disappointed with the result.
“This bill does not reduce testing but increases it. The bill does not focus on student learning or on providing teachers time to monitor and assess children’s progress. In fact, it probably will add more work for already overwhelmed teachers," said Andrew Spar, the teachers union president.
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