Ceos Grow Annenberg Challenge Into Partnership Helping Schools Statewide
By Sherri C. Ranta
A successful corporate partnership with South Florida’s lowest performing public schools has caught the attention of legislators who now want the program in place statewide.
The Council For Educational Change, formerly South Florida Annenberg Challenge, is using $1 million from the Legislature to expand the Partnership to Advance School Success beyond the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, said Sisty Walsh, communications director for the Davie-based Council for Educational Change.
The PASS program, originally developed by South Florida Annenberg Challenge, a public-private partnership to improve public education, and Florida Council of 100, a group of prominent state businessmen, pairs corporate CEOs with low-performing schools – ones with letter grades, or ratings, of ‘D’ or less.
The CEOs or their companies, Ms. Walsh said, commit $100,000 to the schools and serve as mentors to principals. The goal is to improve student achievement and in turn school ratings.
"We’re pleased and gratified the Legislature appropriated $1 million to replicate the school of the program," Ms. Walsh said. "Based on our success, they’ve turned it over to us 100 percent."
The Council for Educational Change is the successor organization to The South Florida Annenberg Challenge, a 7-year-old, $100 million public-private partnership established to enhance public education.
Chaired by Edward T. Foote II, chancellor of University of Miami, the council and its 14-member board will continue programs established by the Annenberg Challenge through 2004 and continue other successful programs including the PASS program. The council, Ms. Walsh said, is seeking more funds this year from the Legislature.
"The CEOs are a very bottom-line group," she said. "The fact that they have faith in this and have seen results is very gratifying to us."
Since the PASS program’s inception two years ago, the number of participating schools has doubled to 24, Ms. Walsh said. The results among those schools in the program at least one year are 15 schools advancing one letter grade or more. Six schools made an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade; five schools maintained the same grade and two declined one letter grade. In all, only four of 18 schools still have a ‘D’ grade or less, she said.
All ratings are based on student achievement in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
In Miami-Dade, Biscayne Gardens Elementary moved from a ‘D’ to ‘B.’ West Riverside Elementary moved from a ‘C’ to a ‘B.’ Riverside, North Shore, Salley B. Mathis, Shingle Creek and Mt. Vernon Elementary Schools moved from a ‘D’ to a ‘C.’ Bent Tree Elementary maintained an ‘A’ for the second consecutive year.
Miami-Dade CEOs in the program include Armando Codina of The Codina Group, Norman Braman of Braman Motors, Stuart Miller of The Lennar Corp., and Joe Arriola, recently named manager for the City of Miami.
Ms. Walsh said the PASS CEOs meet on a regular basis to exchange ideas as well as work with the public schools.
"They get a chance to peek into the classroom and see what’s going on and become champions for quality education."
Mr. Codina, she said, helped Bent Tree Elementary, 4861 SW 140th Ave., with its computer technology and literacy programs by opening a computer lab in the media center, a service that is open to both students and their parents.
"It’s a winning combination," Ms. Walsh said. "They are a dynamic duo there, Mr. Codina and principal Bart Christie. They’ve done a fantastic job, not only improving student achievement at that school, but providing services for the community."
The PASS program, she said, works with principals by identifying strengths and weaknesses at the school by using available data, such as test scores.
"It’s all about data-driven decision making."
"Certainly the academic world and education have a lot of offer, but the business world is a bottom-line results driven world. Infusing that as much as possible in educational efforts can only be a positive," Ms. Walsh said.
In addition to PASS, the Council for Educational Change will also work to develop generations of teachers and principals and provide tools to help district and schools make data-driven decision making.
"With 2.5 million students in Florida, we feel we have a lot of work to do to help support the community and state in working to provide quality education for all students," she said. "Our model has been partnerships and will we continue to harness that incredible power." Details: Council for Educational Change, (954) 727-9909.