Building Philanthropy for a Better Florida

ENGAGE Funders Toolkit

Module 1: Background

EAG History: Raising the Profile of Philanthropy in Education

What began as an informal group of funders interested in supporting education issues, organizations and needs in Florida in 2008 grew to become Florida Philanthropic Network's Education Affinity Group (EAG), a dedicated space for Florida's education funders. From best practices to taking positions, EAG provides space for funders to learn from each other, work together to improve the state's education outcomes and be a voice for Florida philanthropy on key education policy issues.

The President of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida Nina Waters was the first chair of the group. It was important for funders to connect statewide, Waters said, because most decisions are made in Tallahassee. Harnessing the group’s collective voice allows members to be informed and aware of education policy at the state level, in addition to their local efforts, she added.  



Education funders start meeting to learn from each other led by Nina Waters from The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida.

Winter 2009


First face-to-face meeting to decide whether the education funders wanted to formalize a structure. The result is the formation of the Education Affinity Group.

Spring 2010


Discussions begin about how education funders can begin working together to deepen learning within the education funding community and raise the profile of the philanthropy in education.

Summer 2010


Initial investment made in EAG to boost capacity and support a common education agenda for Florida’s philanthropic community.

Fall 2010


EAG issues introductory briefs of philanthropic involvement in education. Topics covered: resources, class size, STEM, teacher accountability and a general overview of philanthropy and education.

Education Issue Brief: Accelerating STEM Education
Education Issue Brief: Providing Adequate Resources
Education Issue Brief: Ensuring Teacher Accountability

Summer 2011


Conversations and planning begins for the next stage of EAG work.

Spring 2012


Additional grant investments pursued and realized.

Summer 2012


EAG funders convene to discuss philanthropy’s role in education reform. Particular attention is placed on Common Core.

Fall 2012


Interviews with members of EAG are conducted to identify common areas of connection and interest in working in advocacy. The results showed increasing interest in working on policy issues, particularly as a group.

Spring 2013


FPN conducts a series of candid conversations with education thought leaders in order to better inform the EAG decision-making process on policy work. The conversations were held in May and June 2013 with representatives from the early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary areas.

Fall 2013


EAG has a facilitated discussion on possible policy focus areas and decides its focus should be: to create a post-secondary/college-going and career culture of success.

FPN’s Board of Directors supports EAG position statement in favor of Common Core adoption in Florida—the first time the board took a position on an issue area outside of philanthropic issues.

Winter 2013


EAG official adopts guiding statement: The EAG will support a culture of high expectations for all students, in and out of school, from early childhood to postsecondary education, leading to career success The field of possible education issues tied to the earlier identified focus area is narrowed to five and research is done to explore the case for EAG involvement. Education and support around Common Core State Standards was already underway.

  • Common Core State Standards
  • Family & community engagement
  • Teacher Preparation & Practice
  • Educator retention/recruitment/Comp Ed
  • College access and completion
  • Digital Learning/Technology Integration

Spring 2014


Florida Board of Education adopts Florida State Standards.

Summer 2014


EAG decides on three positions:

  • Higher Education Attainment;
  • Standards and Accountability; and
  • Financial Aid.

January 2015


Draft EAG position paper created and tested with constituents.

EAG Position Paper

Spring 2015

EAG hosts Florida State Standards convening with funders only.
Summer 2015


TNTP presents Standards Implementation Webinar. Funding is received to support EAG policy efforts in higher education attainment.

Fall 2015


EAG convening focused on higher education attainment efforts; standards implementation and awareness; personalized learning; and future plans. EAG funders create a formal partnership to work on its Goal #1: Statewide goal of 60% of working-age Floridians having post-secondary degree or certification by 2025.

First EAG position paper is released.

Letters are sent by EAG members to legislators, media, governor, etc.

Winter 2015


Presentations on coalition building tied to higher education attainment work.



FPN works on Florida Partnership for Attainment Working Group Strategic Plan development and takes a deeper dive on standards implementation training with members.

Fall 2016

Funding is received to support next phase of funder engagement in standards implementation.

October 2017


FPN launches ENGAGE: A Funders' Guide to Understanding Florida Standards Implementation for FPN members funding education.

History of Florida State Standards

Long before Florida Philanthropic Network and EAG, education funders were following policy changes nationwide and the Florida Sunshine State Standards here at home. From the first suggestion of national standards to the trial and error of Common Core and ultimately the adoption of Florida Standards, the philanthropic sector has worked to support educators and students.

With the adoption of Florida Standards, EAG begins to shift its focus toward Florida Standards implementation.

April 1983


A commission established by President Reagan publishes, “A Nation at Risk.” The report calls for setting standards for what students should know and be able to do and marks the starting point of “standards-based” education reform.

March 1996


At the 1996 National Education Summit, governors and business leaders pledge to work together to raise standards and achievement in public schools. Achieve, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group—which will become instrumental in the creation of the Common Core—is founded.

May 1996 Florida Sunshine State Standards developed in all content areas.

January 2002

Paul Morse / White House


President Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act which strengthens requirements for the kinds of standards states must set and requires states to test students in specific grades and subjects. However, states are still free to set their own standards and create their own tests.


United States Map | Free vector by vexels.como


Governors and state education commissioners from 48 states plus the District of Columbia commit to developing the Common Core standards.

Only Alaska and Texas do not join the effort.

February 2010

Kentucky adopts the Common Core standards before they’ve been publicly released, making it the first state to adopt them.

June 2010


Final Common Core standards released for states to adopt or reject. Florida adopts Common Core State Standards for phased-in implementation the following school year.

2012 Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards developed in all content areas.

September 2013

J Pat Carter / AP


Gov. Scott has Florida withdrawal from the testing consortium for Common Core State Standards and directs the Board of Education to come up with alternate standards.

February 2014


Florida formally adopts the Florida Standards

2014 - 2015 School Year


All participating states begin using new standardized tests for math and English language arts. The tests replace tests that had previously been in use in each state.

Education Affinity Group Position

Florida foundations are committed to supporting education; in fact, the largest share of 2013 grant dollars by Florida foundations were directed to education. EAG consists of more than 40 funder organizations each with their own investment priorities around education. In early 2013, efforts were made to determine if there were areas which all of these organizations, with disparate interests, could mutually support. Those conversations led to the adoption of the EAG Guiding Statement:

The EAG will support a culture of high expectations for all students, in and out of school, from early childhood to postsecondary education, leading to career success.

In late 2013, the issue of Florida’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) was heating up. Under the new guiding statement, EAG members identified this as a relevant issue. After a series of facilitated discussions, EAG membership formally recommended to the FPN Board of Directors that it publicly support the adoption of higher standards.

In a precedent-setting move, FPN supported its first policy position not related to general philanthropy in the state, but specific to a topic (education). In formal action, the FPN Board of Directors supported the EAG position statement in favor of Common Core adoption in Florida.

Further conversations identified additional potential areas for EAG to focus. After considerable deliberation, EAG decided on supporting three priorities:

  • Higher standards for education, as exemplified by the Florida Standards, and as measured by the high-quality, aligned Florida Student Assessment;
  • Statewide goal of 60% of working-age Floridians having post-secondary degree or certification by 2025; and
  • Research merit and need-based financial aid, including the effects of recent changes to Florida Bright Futures.
Learn more about EAG's positions and the supporting logic and research around those positions. 

 Download the EAG position Paper

 Read FAQs

What Does Implementation Mean?

In 2016, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund began a statewide landscape analysis to evaluate the needs districts had in shifting to higher standards and the capacity of advocacy groups, Florida funders and education leaders to support these implementation efforts.

The study grew out of work from the education funders' community and set out to explore the most common themes and needs around “effective implementation of the Florida Standards.”

The study began with four buckets of focus:

  • Importance of high-quality, Florida Standards-aligned, materials & curricula
  • Instructional leadership that is infused in professional development and feedback for teachers and school leaders
  • Focus on teacher knowledge/instructional strategies to deliver high-quality, Standards-aligned instruction
  • Public understanding and will essential for long-term sustainability and commitment

JPEF’s project included interviews with practitioners about these areas of focus. Some respondents also underscored the importance of funding and the time being dedicated to these priorities.

What JPEF discovered qualitatively by speaking with those on the frontlines of implementation — and which has been borne out quantitatively by others (cite TNTP, IP, NTC, CEL and others who have measured the fidelity of implementation in Florida) — is that implementation of the Florida Standards could not occur without a robust focus on the teaching and learning taking place in classrooms. Were teachers knowledgeable about the instructional shifts demanded by the Florida Standards? Did they know what student work should look like to match the depth and rigor of grade-level content standards? Did they know the tasks to assign to teach those Standards? Did teachers have high-quality, aligned resources from which to teach? Did the leaders in their schools and districts know the Standards and provide a coherent framework for supporting Standards-aligned instruction, with professional development, classroom walk-throughs, productive feedback for teachers about their instruction, and were teachers given collaborative time to norm around content- and grade-specific expectations of the Standards and how their students were doing with them?

In sum, implementation of the Standards starts with ensuring the development and support of effective instruction, and that students have the opportunity to engage with rigorous content and learning opportunities provided by their teacher to reach the Standards. Reaching this goal requires the pulling of myriad levers in the same direction and an intensity of focus. The good news is that initial findings of district efforts to do this support the premise that it’s worth seeing implementation of the Standards through in order to realize their potential for student outcomes and for equity of learning opportunities for all Florida’s students.

Early Findings Related to Implementation of the Florida Standards

The state of Florida’s adoption of the Florida Standards in 2014 was more than a simple update of the various sets of standards which Florida had operated under since the mid 1990s. The Florida Standards incorporated different, more interactive approaches to instruction. Students at all levels were to do less memorization and more deductive reasoning. This necessitated revision to curricular materials as well as instructional approaches. Implementing Florida Standards was not "business as usual," nor a quick and easy shift.

In 2015, TNTP was engaged to determine if instruction and instructional materials were following the new standards.

As part of this research, TNTP surveyed 17,000 teachers, 1,576 school leaders and 200 coaches and held additional focus groups with 94 coaches and 300 teachers. TNTP performed 455 lesson observations across 31 schools and reviewed almost 2,000 samples of student work.

This research yielded the following findings:

  1. Florida teachers are not yet adjusting their instructional practices to meet the demands of the Florida Standards.
  2. Teacher and leader confidence in their ability to teach the Florida Standards doesn’t match up with reality observed at schools.
  3. Teacher instructional materials, evaluations and professional development opportunities are not well-aligned and do not help teachers raise the rigor of their instruction.

These findings reinforce the notion that implementing the Florida Standards is a challenging undertaking on which teachers and district leadership are working hard. The districts involved in TNTP's study, along with others, have formed learning communities which are hard at work collaborating in how they adapt their teacher professional development, instructional approaches and curricular materials to better address the needs of the Florida Standards.

More on the particulars of this work in Module 2: Ensuring Excellent Instruction: Current Situation.

Learn more about early findings. 

 TNTP Research on Implementation of Florida Standards

 TNTP Florida Diagnostics Summary

 Florida Standards Implementation infographic highlighting TNTP research results

Module 1: Tools & Resources

 EAG Introductory Briefs

Education Issue Brief: Accelerating STEM Education
Education Issue Brief: Providing Adequate Resources
Education Issue Brief: Ensuring Teacher Accountability

 EAG Position Paper
This position paper details the support of Florida Philanthropic Network, through our Education Funders Affinity Group, for establishing a statewide goal to have 60% of working-age Floridians possess post-secondary degrees or certifications by the year 2025. The paper also outlines FPN's support for related policies that can help achieve this goal.

 FPN State Attainment Goal FAQs

 TNTP Research on Implementation of Florida Standards

 TNTP Florida Diagnostics Summary

 Florida Standards Implementation infographic highlighting TNTP research results
In 2014, Florida Standards were adopted and students are being tested with Florida Standards Assessments. TNTP, a national nonprofit founded by teachers that works alongside educators in schools and district offices, partnered with Florida districts the same year to assess implementation of the new standards. TNTP set out to answer “to what extent are current practices at the classroom, school and district levels supporting or hindering efforts to ensure rigorous, standards-aligned instruction for all students?”

Related Links

 Implementation of K–12 State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts and Literacy
This is an excellent Rand report on finding from the American Teachers Panel on challenges and successes around implementing higher standards in K-12. Rand Corp., 2016

 Teaching the teachers
Great teaching has long been seen as an innate skill. But reformers are showing that the best teachers are made, not born
This article was the pre-session reading for our EAG meeting and the basis of Brian Dassler’s presentation. It backs up the assertion that while great teaching has long been seen as an innate skill reformers are showing that the best teachers are made, not born. The Economist; June 11, 2016

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ENGAGE is an initiative of Florida Philanthropic Network in partnership with its Education Affinity Group and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Special thanks to Jacksonville Public Education Fund, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Conn Memorial Foundation, TNTP and Pasco County Schools for their insight, time and contributions to the ENGAGE toolkit.