From Excuses to Excellence

Another Call to Action for Job Creators and Employers to Sustain Educational Accountability,
Continue Boosting Student Learning and Close the Skills Gap

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For many decades, Florida’s education system was stagnant and ranked near the bottom nationally in just about every important category. In 1994, the Florida Chamber Foundation issued important research and a call to action titled, No More Excuses: What Business Must Do to Help Improve Florida’s Schools. This is where the Florida story of education improvement begins. Unencumbered by political compromise and education interest groups, the Florida Chamber Foundation conducted research into what constitutes a world-class education system. The resulting vision provided a clear guide for improving education through eight key components:

  • High standards for all students,
  • Accurate assessments to measure what students know and can do,
  • Challenging curricula with real world applications,
  • Competent and inspired teachers,
  • Leading edge instructional technology,
  • Culture of continuous improvement,
  • Accountability tools that measure performance of school systems, and
  • Supportive communities.

The Chamber Foundation challenged job creators and employers across the state to become champions for a world-class education for all Florida students and engage in local action to improve schools. Florida’s job creators and employers responded by partnering with education reformers, parents, trade associations, community leaders and citizens to work towards making this vision a reality. The extraordinary accomplishments of Florida’s education reform initiatives can be traced to these
key components.

“Becoming a world leader in education is not a process that happens overnight. It’s taken years and the dedication of many business, legislative and community leaders to get to where we are, but our work is far from over. From Excuses to Excellence outlines the gaps that our state needs to address- but now it’s up to a united community to ensure that we are creating more successes in our state’s educational systems.”

MARK WILSON, President and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce

Creating economic opportunities for all starts with high quality education. This collaboration has produced game changing strides locally and statewide. Florida student achievement has gone from being ranked 48th in the nation in graduation rate to 7th in educational achievement. Schools thought to be stuck at the bottom, allegedly due to poverty and other challenges, proved that all students truly can
learn at high rates.

Florida has become a national leader in performance and effective education policy and practice. Many states are emulating Florida’s reforms by adopting key improvements such as grading schools, adopting third grade reading proficiency policies, customizing education, expanding advanced studies, focusing on career and college readiness, and giving parents and students a robust array of education choices. We should be proud of our accomplishments. However, the danger of becoming stagnant again and slipping behind remains real.

At the time of this report, there are approximately 300,000 open and unfilled jobs in Florida. As we fight to create economic opportunities for everyone, we simply cannot rest until we close the talent gap our education system creates.