Overview of Education System
The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) is the state education agency of Florida. It governs public education and manages funding and testing for local educational agencies. The Florida commissioner of education is the state’s chief educational officer.1 Originally, the Office of the Commissioner of Education was directly responsible for education in Florida, and was a cabinet level position filled by direct election. By a 2003 constitutional amendment, the governor assumed overall responsibility for the FDOE. The amended constitution also created a new state Board of Education with seven members appointed by the governor to oversee the FDOE. The state board now is responsible for appointing the commissioner of education.
The FDOE serves and supports more than 2.7 million students, 190,000 instructional staff, 4,300 public schools, and 320,000 full time staff in the state. Its calculated funding to school districts in 2015–2016 exceeded $19.7 billion.2 The FDOE serves as the single repository of education data from school districts, community colleges, universities, and independent post-secondary institutions, which allows for the tracking of student performance across time and various education sectors.
Florida law delegates the operation of primary and secondary schools to local governments, which in turn have assigned the task of running the schools to elected or appointed local school boards, traditionally. These boards raise funds, establish policies and operating regulations, and hire or elect superintendents to manage and operate the district. Local districts are responsible for curriculum decisions, implementation of standards, construction and maintenance of facilities, and operation of school programs.3
Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 mathematics and English language arts instruction in Florida are based on the Florida Standards (FS). Science and social studies are based on the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS). These content standards establish what students in Florida need to learn in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Florida Statute 1003.41(1) states that the standards must include distinct grade level expectations for the core content knowledge and skills that a student is expected to have acquired by each individual grade level from kindergarten through the eighth grade.
Florida’s NGSSS for science and social studies were adopted by the state Board of Education in 2008, supplanting the previous Sunshine State Standards. The NGSSS for social studies were revised in 2014, when the Florida Standards for mathematics and English language arts also were adopted, supplanting previous standards in those subjects. Florida’s student performance standards are prescribed in Rule 6A-1.09401 of the Florida Administrative Code.4
Currently, the FS for Mathematics and the NGSSS for Science serve as the basis for curriculum and instruction, professional development for teachers, instructional materials, and the statewide assessment program in Florida.
Florida has no specified state curriculum. However, Florida’s content standards serve as the basis of instruction statewide and for State Board of Education-approved course descriptions. Local school districts in Florida are responsible for determining the necessary curriculum and instructional scope and sequence to ensure that their students meet the state content standards. School districts also are responsible for developing and providing instructional and pedagogical guides for teachers.
Florida’s approved courses, content standards, and resources are provided in the Course Code Directory and CPALMS (Collaborate, Plan, Align, Learn, Motivate, and Share) website http://www.CPALMS.org, which was established in 2007.5 CPALMS is a statewide infrastructure that provides tools to support the implementation of the FS Mathematics and NGSSS Science Standards. Collaborators with CPALMS include teachers of Kindergarten to Grade 12, researchers, the FDOE, universities, district curriculum specialists, and many others.
CPALMS.org is the core database of all components of Florida’s standards, providing direct Internet access and connection to these standards, including mathematics and science. By integrating all standards into a single online system, CPALMS aims to do the following:
- Make the standards more practical by connecting them to courses
- Make standards more achievable by providing high quality resources that are specifically aligned to or created for the FS and NGSSS
- Provide standards-based tools to create high quality courses, instructional resources, planning, and professional development
- Serve as one source for all standards-based information
Languages of Instruction
There is no official language in the United States. English is the most widely spoken language in the country and is the only language spoken by persons age 5 and older in 80 percent of homes. English is the language of instruction for academic subjects at all academic levels. The second most commonly spoken language at home is Spanish, spoken by 12 percent of the US population.6
Florida’s English language learners (ELLs) total more than 260,000 students (approximately 10 percent of all Florida students), ranking Florida third among US states in ELL population. Spanish is the native language for three-quarters of these students. Florida’s diversity of languages spoken by ELLs also surpasses most states in the country, with a total of 234. The League of United Latin American Citizens et al. v. State Board of Education Consent Decree is the State of Florida’s framework for compliance with federal and state laws and jurisprudence regarding the education of English language learner students.