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As readers of this blog and supporters of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship are no doubt aware, the past few months here at the FJCC/Lou Frey Institute have been a bit stressful. The Florida Legislature seems to have essentially decided that the state should not be in the business of funding professional development organizations, tools, or resources, and that anything of value can and should be paid for by the districts.

“It’s only valuable if it doesn’t cost anything, is the message,” Gaetz told the Times/Herald. “If yours is so valuable, why isn’t anybody interested in paying any money for it?”

While our own funding was saved at the last minute, thanks no doubt to the efforts of folks like you, we remain in a precarious position. In order to continue to be supported by the state, and not have to charge districts a great deal of money to support us, we have to start providing data to the legislature and to the governor’s office. Now, we do have some excellent data that we have provided them before. We know, for example, that usage of both our own site and the Escambia civics site, for which we provide a great deal of resources and support, is incredibly high. Figure 1 illustrates usage of the FJCC online resources. Figure 3 illustrates usage of the Escambia site. (Click on each image to enlarge it if you need to).

usage 1escambiaThe usage of these resources is also spread across the state, as the two figures below illustrate:

regional usageescambia mapSo what does the data we have say?

  • More than 5,600 Florida teachers and district personnel, from every district in the state, maintain active accounts on the Institute’s website, providing them with access to professional development, instructional and assessment resources.
  • In FY 2014-15 to-date, more than 59,000 users of the Institute’s civics resources website have generated more than 170,000 work sessions as teachers have come to the site for support materials (Figure 1).
    • Monthly utilization rates have grown exponentially in FY 2014-15 following the first administration of the Civics EOC in the spring of 2014. Further growth is anticipated in advance of the 2015 test administration date.
  • The Institute’s daily impact on teachers touches virtually all Florida school districts. Figure 2 shows the distribution of usage sessions by school districts to-date for the current fiscal year. Heaviest use is from the state’s more urban districts.
    • Four of the state’s most rural districts are not making use of LFI/FJCC resources. We are currently coordinating with FLDOE’s outreach to lowest performing districts to address this issue.
  • In the five month period from September, 2014 through January, 2015, almost 40,000 student users accessed materials on the Civics Review Site in just under 120,000 sessions. (Figure 3). The general trend line is up and student access is expected to grow further in advance of the 2015 EOC administration.
  • The Student Review Site is serving the needs of students from virtually every district in the state (Figure 4). Use is most intense in the more urban areas of the state.
    • Five of the most rural districts are not making use of the Student Review Sites. LFI/FJCC is currently coordinating with FLDOE’s outreach to lowest performing districts to address this issue.

This is good data, data that we are excited by and that we believe is making a difference. Civics scores increased this year, and we believe that we may have played a role in that increase. HOWEVER, the data that we have is not data that will impress the state legislature and the governor’s office. We need to directly connect our work to student EOC achievement scores, and in this we face a challenge. The state leadership does not want stories, though we have so many good stories that we can share and will share. They want hard numbers, or the stories that we do have will be nothing more than melancholy reminiscing. It is difficult, however. How do we separate out the noise that is inherent in this sort of data collection effort? After all, we are not the only civic education organization in Florida, nor are we the only resource that is being used. At the same time, we don’t always know just HOW the resources and PD we provided is being implemented in classrooms, schools, and districts. And, of course, the biggest problem we face is actually getting those numbers that we need. We must, essentially, be able to match student test scores to specific teachers, and that requires a great deal of finesse with the system. Most significantly, we must rely on the Education Data Warehouse to share with us this data, and that can sometimes be difficult. We must also convince teachers to allow us to match them up with those student scores. If we are unable to do this, well, despite the good work that we believe that we do, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship will most likely cease to exist.

Of course we recognize the need to demonstrate our impact; it’s getting access to the data that we need in order to do this that is the difficult process, and it is a bit of a frustration that the impressive usage data is not adequate for the task. To facilitate this effort, as we relaunch a revised version of our website in the fall, we are going to ask that all users re-register on the site, and we humbly request that you provide us with enough registration data so that we may match users to scores. Please keep in mind that we will not be publishing individual scores or personally and publicly identifying teachers and scores; rather, this will simply be for justifying our continued existence to the legislature and the governor (assuming, of course, that the data is positive, which we believe it will be).

We believe, deeply, in the mission of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship. We believe that the work that we do here does help teachers, schools, and districts in helping to develop that next generation of Florida, American, and global citizens. We hope that we may be allowed to continue that work, and that you might be willing to help us do so. We thank you for the support that you have provided in the past and in any support you choose to offer, and for your understanding as we work to collect the data that we so desperately need.

For now, if you have used our resources or attended our PDs, we would love for you to complete this survey that may help us.