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State Board of Ed to focus on Pre-K, digital learning

State Board of Education members began a review of the state’s current strategic plan with an eye for change. One place that the Board’s Vice Chairman Roberto Martinez says he’d like the state to expound on what it means to be a “world-class education system”.

 “To me, it’s more than that. It means preparing our students to compete in an economy that’s a world economy,”   he said during the board's meeting Wednesday in Tampa.

The group is trying to work out a set of goals to steer the state’s public education system through the next two years. But when it comes to defining a “world-class” education system, it’s easier said, than done, and it has different meanings to different people. For board member John Padget, building a world-class education system, starts at the bottom.

“What are we doing in school readiness and how does that link into VPK, the money we’re spending statewide? I think our mission is to dramatically reduce the need for remediation at the college level. We’re responsible for K-20. And if we can’t do it in this state, who is better positioned?”   he said.

Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten system was recently rated as first in access, but last in funding in a Rutgers University Study. The state was also criticized for the quality of its programs.

Having a good educational foundation helps lessen the need for remediation classes as children get older. And much of the work to ensure a good system is done at the state and local levels, through rules, regulations and laws. Take digital education for example: The State Board of Education sees it as a way to help schools keep up with changes in technology.

 “I want to use the word technology-based platform of education. We’re trying to become educators in a proficiency of technology-based educational learning," said the Board's Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan.   She wants the board’s strategic plan to include language that pushes digital learning.

 The state has worked to expand digital learning options. Taking at least one online class is now a requirement for students to graduate high school. The state recently approved expanding its virtual school to allow elementary school students to enroll. And last year, the state opened up its education system to online charter schools.

The board wants to have a final plan in place by June.