Over a period of 48 hours, Gerard Robinson has twice attempted to deflect criticism for his plan to turn Florida’s school grade formula upside down. Here part of his Thursday statement:
The proposed changes to our school grading system are not only necessary to continue on the path of intelligent reform, but they will help ensure that Florida is prepared to compete on a global level. Under our current school grading system, it is possible for a school to receive an ‘A’ grade when three out of four students cannot meet Florida’s grade-level standards for reading. This is unacceptable.
We need an education system for Florida that is exceptional, not merely acceptable. It is my goal to ensure that every student has the opportunity to be counted and to experience world-class public education. These proposed changes are the result of important discussion and contributions made by all stakeholder groups including superintendents, educators, and experts across the state. And this is not a week-old discussion. The Florida Department of Education has been discussing school grade changes with stakeholders since May 2011.
Its easy to cherry-pick one aspect of the current school grade formula and say it is “unacceptable.” Its another thing entirely to use it to justify the sort of Draconian changes that Robinson wants. The education commissioner also does a history re-write by asserting that “stakeholder groups including superintendents, educators, and experts across the state” have been involved in “discussing” school grade changes since May 2011. Like his predecessor Eric Smith, Robinson is one of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, and both take policy directives from him. Their brand of involving stakeholders is to hold highly publicized listening tours before moving forward with their marching orders.
Robinson attempted in a follow-up statement yesterday to appear reasonable by saying he’s carved out “exceptional student educational centers” from school grades. Even the most rabid test-based ed reformer knows these schools ought not to be part of school grade regimes. Nor is there any part of NCLB waiver considerations or RttT guidelines that support it either. Robinson knows this and the special education centers’ appearance on the list in the first place was dubious.
In his You-Tube statement yesterday, Robinson attempted to dismiss opposition to special needs and second-language learners from school grades by saying that they take the FCAT already. He’s knows that not the point. Robinson’s intending to use that data from these students differently – and in a way which will move more schools to D and F status.
Meanwhile, parent trigger legislation looms in Florida and Robinson has smartly stayed on the sidelines. But in his appearance at this past week’s charter schools pep rally, Robinson spoke of “choice” and “options.” He’s certain to know that his new school grade formula will be benefiting the folks who bankrolled that pep rally by creating more D and F parent trigger targets. As parent trigger has shown to be corruptible, Robinson ought to consider whom his new school grade formula will really be serving the most.