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Day 4 of NEA’s back-to-school tour: visits to the Sunshine State

Van Roekel meets with Tampa-area educators following ‘Race to the Top’ announcement

TAMPA - August 26, 2010 -

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s timely back-to-school tour arrived in Florida with several stops in the Tampa Bay area, including a town hall meeting with local educators where they discussed hot education topics such as the state’s recent win of $700 million in federal funding through the Race to the Top competition.

“We know that great things are happening in Florida’s public schools,” said Van Roekel during the town hall meeting, which was held at the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association Community Center. “This is our chance to listen and figure out where and how these great ideas can be replicated.”

Florida, which joins eight other states and the District of Columbia in nabbing the competitive dollars, will use the $700 million to meet two goals: to double the percentage of incoming high school freshmen who graduate and go on to college and to help cut the achievement gap in half by 2015.

“Florida just received the Race to the Top grant,” said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford. “We’re continuously working to ensure Florida’s students get the quality education they deserve.”

The federal grant comes on the heels of a $100 million grant from the Gates Foundation to Hillsborough County, which plans to use the funds to develop a system that will look at multiple indicators of student achievement—not just test scores—and consider all of them in teacher evaluations.

“Public schools across the nation are facing unprecedented challenges, and many communities are creating innovative solutions—and that includes Hillsborough County,” said Jean Clements, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, which was involved at every step in developing this system.
“We appreciated hearing Dennis’ perspective on the national scene, and we shared with him some of the great things that teachers are doing here in Hillsborough County.”

Van Roekel was in Tampa as part of a week-long, multi-city, back-to-school tour. In addition to getting school staff energized about the upcoming school year—and calming those first-day jitters—Van Roekel has joined local and state education leaders across the country in highlighting public school innovation, service learning, partnerships, and teacher- and union-led school transformation efforts.

On to San Antonio and Austin, Texas
The NEA back-to-school tour travels next to the Lone Star State—with visits in San Antonio and Austin. In San Antonio, Van Roekel will swing by Highland Park Elementary School, a public school whose focus on early childhood education initiatives is paying dividends in closing the achievement gap. He will end the day in Austin with a town hall meeting to discuss topics such as the reauthorization of ESEA, Race to the Top and federal education funding.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

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