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Education secretary tours FSW campus

By Staff | Dec 6, 2017

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos listened to Florida Southwestern Collegiate High School Sophomore Aiden Scirie describe a robot he and his classmates made from household items. MEGHAN McCOY

Florida is on the leading edge of providing parents a wide range of choices for their kids, the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said following a tour at Florida Southwestern State College.

“I think it’s really constructive to come and highlight some of the ways that this is happening and to encourage other states to perhaps emulate what Florida is doing in a big way,” she said.

Congressman Francis Rooney, R-19, said he was very thankful that the secretary took the time to visit Florida Southwestern State College and Lake Park Elementary in Naples, so she could see first-hand what is happening with education in Southwest Florida.

“There are three things that we are highlighting that are in line with the secretary’s goals and objectives,” he said.

The first was showcasing career training and technical education at Southwestern State College, which officials said is one of the national leaders. The second, parental choice, which was displayed at the collegiate high school on the college’s campus.

“They are going to be great leaders in this country in the future because of the high school education they are getting with imagination and ingenuity in their curriculum,” Rooney said.

The third, he said was showcasing high parental involvement at Lake Park Elementary.

DeVos and Rooney spent time learning about the insertion of catheters and stents while visiting the cardiovascular program at Florida Southwestern State College, before visiting with students in the simulation center. The center provides 10 rooms with low to medium fidelity scenarios. The simulated patients have a variety of medical conditions, providing a different experience for the students throughout their two year experience.

The visit in Fort Myers concluded at Florida Southwestern Collegiate High School where they had the opportunity to visit with students who created robots with household items.

During DeVos visit, sophomore Aiden Scirie and a team of his classmates were working on a robot with such household items as toy car wheels and a wooden spoon.

He said they were putting wheels on the spoon, while using a motor to turn the wheels. The sophomore said he enjoyed finding things that he would not think were useful and putting them to use.

“I think it’s an innovative and cool program,” Scirie said. “We work together as a team.”

The class, he said began by creating simple robots, which has increased to more complex.

DeVos said Rooney has been very kind in repeatedly inviting her to some of the great education institutions in Southwest Florida. She said it was exciting to the see the collaborative approach that happens between the college and high school in preparing students for the myriad of pathways for their future.

In general, she believes Florida is doing a great job with continuing to challenge the notion that anything is good enough and there is always room to do better and be better.

“We need to do that on behalf of students because every student is unique and is an individual,” DeVos said. “We want to make sure that they all have opportunities to really become everything that they are meant to be individually.”

Charter schools are a great opportunity for students and continue to grow in popularity across the country, she said.

“In fact, I think a recent statistic that I saw suggested that there is a waiting list of over a million kids that would like to get into charter schools in their respective states. It’s really a model and approach that has to continue to have room to grow and flourish because it really is providing many great alternative outlets and pathways for kids that need something different than the school in which they are assigned,” DeVos said.

DeVos said most states, with the exception of four, have some kind of charter school law.

“There is tremendous room for growth. There is room for many, many more of them in virtually in every state. As long as there is demand, I think there should be response to that demand. We should be again be doing the things that meet kids needs for where they are at and how they learn,” DeVos said.

The federal government’s role is relatively limited, but officials are in the process of reviewing and approving state plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which will be implemented over the course of the next 18 months in every state.

“States have opportunity. I hope they will take this opportunity to become much more creative and flexible at the state level and in fact move that creativity and flexibility down to the building level. This school is a great example of meeting the needs of students who want to learn, and need to learn in a different way. Just observing the students here . . . they are excited to be here. They are in charge of their own learning. The staff has been terrific in continuing to adjust to what is working on behalf of their students. That is the kind of approach that we need to see in a lot more places around the country,” she said.

DeVos said 90 percent of funding for education comes from the states.

“We are trying to push back at the state level the flexibility that they need to have to be able to address the needs of their students at the state level and I hope very much at the local school building level,” she said.