In January Tony Bennett, Florida Commissioner of Education, stated on his blog, “In my opinion, our students are best served in education when parents, educators, and communities communicate on issues facing our classrooms. That is why I will not use a top-down approach to Florida’s education reform … In my new position as Florida’s Commissioner of Education, I will keep the [student achievement] scoreboard up as a constant reminder to me and my colleagues of the importance of accountability in measuring teacher and student success. Parents should feel confident that when their child graduates from high school he or she will be ready for today’s competitive environment.”
One method of holding schools accountable is grading public schools based upon accountability measures such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).
According to Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times staff writer, “Florida school grades are due by late July, but their validity will be in serious doubt this year. A divided state Board of Education voted Tuesday [July 16, 2013] to prevent the grades from dropping more than one letter at any school, marking the second straight year the board padded grades.”
The State Board of Education may have been influenced by a letter from Bennet which states, “I recommend the continuation of the transition safety net provision that prevents schools from dropping more than one letter grade in a given year. The continuation of this safety net provision was the primary recommendation of the advisory task force. The department understands the superintendents’ concern that multiple changes to performance expectations, grade calculations and other variables within the calculation on a short timeline may have contributed to a reduction in clarity of the system. However, similar issues will likely be in play in 2015-2016 with a revamped accountability model and higher performance expectations of CCSS [Common Core State Standards].”
So which is it Secretary Bennett the “importance of accountability” or the “continuation of a safety net”?
Solocheck notes, “Of the 262 schools slated to earn an F this year, just 108 will get that grade now, board member Sally Bradshaw said.” Bradshaw does not believe true accountability on educational standard are being met. Bradshaw stated, “I don’t understand when it became acceptable to disguise and manipulate the truth simply because the truth is uncomfortable.”
Could there be a political twist to this decision?
Solochek writes, “The [school] grades quickly became prominent in school vernacular. School board members and elected superintendents touted them in campaigns. Residents used them when buying and selling homes. Mayors gave out awards based on school grades.”
Governor Scott is up for reelection in 2014. Secretary Bennet is signaling this safety net will be extended due to the implementation of Common Core in Florida. That would take the heat off Scott as schools are failing at a higher rate due to new higher standards.
Can you say double standard in our public schools? Who does this decision harm most?
EDITORS NOTE: Commissioner Bennet was resigned from his position August 1, 2013 due to a cheating scandal in his previous job.