Gerard Robinson Testy, Defensive in Tampa Bay Times Interview


Florida’s Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson has apparently been designated as the one who will be taking the tough questions on education policy so Rick Scott and Jeb Bush won’t have to. His rambling and often sarcastic answers for reporter Jeff Solochek were indicative of a man who realizes he’s defending the indefensible. Writes Solochek:

Earlier in the discussion, Robinson delayed answering a question about the “parent trigger” bill that failed in the Florida Senate during session. He returned to the subject midway through the talk.

Parent trigger. I’ll share with you what I said before. I don’t think the word trigger should have any place in education. So I will call it parent empowerment. What else do you want to know?

So Robinson wants to argue semantics. It’s what we call it, you see. Making how parent trigger is packaged for public consumption lowers the issue to politician’s double-talk. Such deliberately misleading stunts are not new, but don’t pass the smell test as they once did. Both sides are guilty.

Robinson’s “what else do you want to know,” comes off as taunting and again showed that he wanted to make it about what we call it. Consider this exchange about high-stakes testing.  Solochek’s questions are again in bold.

Can I ask you a question about testing? The Palm Beach school district took up this national anti-testing issue that is really taking off in Texas. Does that have a foothold in Florida? Is Florida going to in any way consider scaling back high-stakes testing or look at testing in a different way?

Why call it high-stakes testing versus standardized testing? I have an idea why. I just want to know why.

Jeb Bush. He created the A-Plus accountability plan. Prior to that, the FCAT has been in Florida schools. It just didn’t have consequences, he would say.

Right. The reason I mention high stakes is, the SAT is considered high stakes, and the ACT is considered high stakes. It helps you get into college. We never call those high stakes.

Sure we do.

A lot of people don’t. You guys are probably different. A lot of people don’t call those, you know, Gerard is going to take the high-stakes SAT. But they’ll say you’re going to take the high-stakes FCAT. So, I’m just saying, how you utilize the name …

Well, it’s also how it’s used in the school. My son is in third grade right now, and I can’t tell you how much he saw it as being high stakes. And it wasn’t because of what we said in our house. It was because of what was said in the school. Be that as it may, would you take Florida in that direction?

Robinson’s need to take issue with what something is called to make his point is neither a response nor justification. It’s also terribly weak. He essentially was questioning the intelligence of Solochek’s inquiry. Instead of having an interview with Solochek, Robinson ended up in an argument. Unfortunately for Robinson, not only did he have an informed reporter on his hands, he had a parent, too.

The education commissioner bristled at Solochek’s characterization of  “bad actors” in the education industry and curiously used the word “pimping” in response. Robinson’s pattern of using rhetorical questions like “compared to what,” to whether or not Florida has too many tests illustrates  of the arrogance of ed reformers. They know best and opponents just don’t know whats good for them.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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