What’s going on in our world


Reading Recovery: A Playbook to Improve Literacy in First-Grade

Reading Recovery helps struggling first-grade students achieve grade-level reading in just 12 to 21 weeks. The internationally acclaimed literacy intervention program is in its third year in Sarasota County and over 400 students have completed Reading Recovery.

Thanks to a rapid growth plan funded by the district and philanthropy, all 23 elementary schools have a trained Reading Recovery teacher who serves as the literacy expert at their school.  The literacy expert also trains teachers to increase literacy education understanding and skill sets across the entire school. We are strong believers in Reading Recovery’s impact and created a playbook in hopes this life-changing program will spread to other school districts.

Why teachers are celebrating the complete transformation of Sarasota County’s middle school classrooms

“The biggest thrill is to hear kids say things like ‘learning is fun,’ and ‘I like finding information and doing something with it,’ ” reports a 6th grade science teacher. This teacher’s excitement joins a choir of praise for the impact of an initiative that has transformed Sarasota County middle schools.

The vision was hatched in 2009, when philanthropic and school district leaders realized middle schools classrooms were not preparing students for jobs of the future. What transpired can only be described as monumental and completely transformative. Teachers have changed the way they prepare and deliver instruction, students collaborate in teams to complete assignments and technology is at the center of learning.

The initiative to re-design middle schools is called 21st Century Schools and was led by Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sarasota County Schools and many community partners. These partners invested $18-million over nine years to reshape instruction and learning in all 300+ middle school classrooms.

The teachers who made this all possible were recently honored at a celebration marking the culmination of the classroom transformation. Go here to see photos from the event.

The impacts on student achievement and teacher satisfaction are documented in the report, “Who Hates Leaving Middle School.” Practical lessons learned are also shared in the hopes other districts will replicate this successful initiative.

Vote YES on March 20 for Sarasota School Tax Referendum

The following op-ed by Teri A Hansen ran in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on February 11, 2018

I will never forget the way that Mrs. Beck, my eighth-grade English teacher, made words come to life. She piqued my curiosity, sparked my imagination and inspired me to study journalism in college.

While I did not pursue journalism as a career, the academic and emotional impacts Mrs. Beck had on me were immeasurable.

At the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, we believe that every student deserves a “Mrs. Beck” and that’s one of the reasons we enthusiastically support extending the Sarasota County School District’s 1-mill tax through the March referendum.

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The fortunate among us can tell stories about their favorite teachers and the impacts they have had on our lives. But there is more than anecdotal evidence about the importance of highly effective teachers in education.

For example, RAND Researcher John Engberg reports: “Many factors contribute to a student’s academic performance, including individual characteristics and family and neighborhood experiences. But research suggests that, among school-related factors, teachers matter most. When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.”

We recognize that even the most talented and passionate teachers need assistance to meet the ever-changing challenges — social and technological — in today’s classrooms.

Since its inception in 2014, the Barancik Foundation has awarded nearly $6 million to Sarasota County Schools to support teacher professional development.

Most recently, we partnered with the district on professional development for elementary school math teachers. This training allowed teachers to work in teams as they developed and delivered math lessons and to actively engage during the learning process.

This type of learning helps to create a culture where teachers own their professional growth and focuses on the impact the professional development will subsequently have on students. While the benefits of peer-based learning may seem obvious, it was new territory for many participants. This type of professional development has become the standard in our district.

Our board of directors believes in providing teachers with the tools they want and need to deliver top-quality instruction. We are confident in the investment because Sarasota County voters have overwhelmingly indicated — by voting in favor of the referendum since 2002 — that education is very important to our community.

More than $50 million is raised annually through the tax subject to the upcoming referendum. The money stays in Sarasota and is carefully accounted for by an oversight committee.

Referendum dollars benefit our students in a number of ways, including: an additional 30 minutes of instruction each day; increased emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning; expanded arts education, including arts, music and drama classes; and enhanced safety and security at their schools. The referendum also allows Sarasota County to pay our teachers a little bit more than other school districts in Florida, which helps with recruiting and retention.

The results are impressive: Sarasota is one of only two Florida school districts to consistently earn an “A” grade. There are other factors beyond referendum dollars and exceptional teachers that contribute to this success — parents and grandparents, volunteers and mentors, neighbors and community partnerships — but the continued strategic use of tax dollars is critical.

There are a lot of reasons to vote yes in the referendum, but I’ll be thinking primarily of Mrs. Beck when I cast my vote.

Meet your future doctor

The Florida State College of Medicine Science Students Reaching Instructional Diversity and Excellence (SSTRIDE) prepares students for careers in science and medicine. The program began last year at McIntosh Middle and leads rising 8th and 9th grade students on an science-focused academic path through high school. Barancik Foundation helped launch this program because our region needs more trained medical professionals. The SSTRIDE program is 20+ years old with a proven record of influencing the rate student’s graduate from high school and go one to earn STEM college degrees.

Crisis Text Line

We hosted Nancy Lublin, the founder of Crisis Text Line, who shared her organization’s story about using data and technology to help individuals in crisis. Crisis Text Line is the world’s largest mental health database and its crisis intervention volunteers are assisted by an algorithm able to gauge the texter’s true level of need. For example, if a texter names any over-the-counter pain relief pill, they are 16 times more likely to attempt suicide than a texter who uses the word “suicide.” We are in discussions with Nancy to establish a keyword for our region that will allow us to get data dashboards about the issues and frequency our residents text for help. Leaders at Sarasota County Schools are ramping up efforts to make teens more aware of this life-saving resource. Thanks to Nancy, we will all be smarter about how we do our work. Go here to see a photos from the event.