Impact Florida helps close student achievement gaps, drive fair education

Exam at school with student's taking educational admission test
Cultivating real, meaningful change by sharing best practices at the district level.

Some groups lead with a megaphone. Others by rolling up their sleeves.

As the arduous work of a COVID-19-infused Session begins, the Legislature is looking for ways to support education without breaking the already-squeezed budget.

There’s one organization, just celebrating its second anniversary, that’s making a quiet impact to drive progress for our schools and achievement for all students — without the Legislature having to budget a penny for it.

Impact Florida, headed by veteran educator Mandy Clark, is cultivating real, meaningful change by sharing best practices at the district level.

The organization uses a “Districts for Impact” initiative to identify what’s working in one school district and sharing it with other districts around the state, through something called learning cadres.

This week, they launched their fifth learning cadre, where four counties — Hillsborough, Pinellas, Osceola and Sarasota — will focus on strengthening professional learning practices.

Teams of key leaders from each district will gain support in how to better understand the complexity of student identities so they can be more intentional in creating equity and access for all students.

So far, Impact Florida’s cadres have involved 18 school districts that teach over half the states’ public-school students.

In addition to four more cadres, the organization is still hoping to hold its annual education summit later this year, bringing together leaders and education organizations across the state.

“By placing student success at the forefront, Impact Florida, Helios Education Foundation and the school districts engaged in this work will transform opportunity for thousands of Florida’s K-12 students,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. “Closing achievement gaps and ensuring an equitable education system is core to ensuring that all students — particularly first-generation, minority, and underrepresented students — are successful all along the education continuum.”/

The Helios Education Foundation is one group supporting the new cadre, along with the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.

What makes this approach especially interesting is how it builds on learnings from Impact Florida’s High-Quality Instructional Materials cadre, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. TNTP, a national education nonprofit organization, is also partnering with Impact Florida in providing support to participating districts.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

One comment

  • Crystal Maria Burgos

    March 2, 2021 at 10:14 am

    One of the best ways to close education gaps is parental engagement in the education process that shows their child that they value learning. Parents need to partner with the school to prevent high absenteeism. Another factor that fragments student learning is a high mobility rate. Finally, programs like Head Start and VPK help to prevent students from enrolling in school already a year or more behind. Research shows that children who enter kindergarten with a limited vocabulary start off behind and stay behind for most of their school career. The idea that teachers do NOT want to close the achievement gap or help students learn is ludicrous! There must be a learning partnership between the parent, the student and the teacher/school. I am a second generation American, my parents (particularly my mother) were actively engaged in my learning using flash cards to build my math facts, improving my cursive writing, taking me to the library once a week, taking me to nature trails, etc to build both my speaking vocabulary and my knowledge of the world. Learning does NOT occur in isolation!

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