In the Osceola School District, we set the mood for this school year with the theme, “Every Child, Every Chance, Every Day!” 

debra pace headshot

This month, the Osceola County School Board hosted the annual State of Education Address where this theme was shared with business partners and leaders in our community along with the vitally important work that is being done to strengthen education in Osceola County. 

As we have now finished two-and-a-half years of the district’s three-year strategic plan, we have made tremendous progress on our journey of continuous improvement, with the focus on our five goals: Academic Success, Talent Management, Fiscal Responsibility, Community Engagement, and Governance. 

Academic success remains our top priority, and we continue to make gains. The latest release of school grades showed that the district maintained its “B” letter grade, increasing in nine of the eleven accountability formula components. In fact, the district moved 1 percent closer to an “A” letter grade last school year. In addition, 90 percent of Osceola Schools earned a letter grade of a C or above; no Osceola elementary schools are on the Florida Department of Education’s lowest 300 list; learning gains in English/Language Arts increased by 1 percent across the district; the lowest quartile of students in mathematics went up by two percent across the district; and high school acceleration went up by three percent across the district. 

Better yet, our 2017-18 high school graduation rate rose to 89.3 percent, an increase of 3 percentage points over last year. The district’s graduation rate remains above the state average, and ranks 14 out of 67 counties, third in the Central Florida region. In addition, graduation rates for Hispanic, black, English language learners, and exceptional education students increased as well, evidence of the district’s commitment to serving all students with excellence. 

It is no surprise that overwhelming evidence shows that children who enter kindergarten with skills behind their peers are likely to remain behind throughout their educational careers and beyond. To help ensure children show up to kindergarten ready to learn, the district opened four new voluntary prekindergarten sites this year, bringing the total to 51 VPK classrooms across the district.

To ensure the delivery of high-quality standards-based instruction in both literacy and mathematics, Learning Cycles visits in nearly 4,000 classrooms this far this school year have been done at all 50 schools to monitor student performance data trends. These classroom visits provide us an up-close look at the implementation practices and depth of knowledge being taught within the state standards. 

Progress is also being made in increasing and strengthening college and careers pathways for all students. Over the last three years, Osceola’s gifted population has grown 17 percent with the implementation of a universal screening tool for all second grade students; more middle school students are taking advantage of high school classes, which opens the door to higher-level coursework in their academic progression; and the percentage of high school students earning their AA degrees from Valencia College has increased 320 percent in the last three years. 

As you can see, student achievement in the Osceola School District is on the move from good to great. To learn more that was shared at our State of Education on goals two through five, please visit


Debra Pace is the superintendent of the Osceola County School District.