Referring to outgoing education commissioner, Gerard Robinson as a “lightening rod” in their headline, the Gainesville Sun makes some observations:
Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson is headed for the exit. Whatever else he may have accomplished, Robinson’s combative leadership style made him a lightning rod; seemingly forever at odds with the state’s school superintendents and school boards.
It has been suggested that Robinson’s departure presents the opportunity to reassess Florida’s heavy reliance on the FCAT as a measure of student progress and school accountability. But that’s more a legislative matter than a bureaucratic one.
That said, in replacing Robinson we urge the Florida Board of Education to look for someone who is more collaborator than combatant. Robinson’s top-down approach to education “reform” drove an unnecessary wedge between the DOE and the school districts.
He is leaving a department that recently admitted to botching the latest round of school gradings, which would seem to add weight to school superintendents’ earlier call for an independent review of the DOE’s testing regimes.
“People in Tallahassee have manipulated the FCAT standards both up and down so many times over the last couple of years that it’s hard to know what the results mean any more,” Dan Boyd, Alachua County’s school superintendent, wrote in a Speaking Out published in The Sun last May.
Last February, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents sent Robinson a lengthy letter detailing its objections to the DOE’s ever changing grading and accountability standards and suggesting numerous alternative approaches. It provided a starting point for a cooperative effort that was largely ignored.
Ending the cold war between the DOE and the school districts ought to be high on the next education secretary’s list of things to. Collaboration, not confrontation, is key to solving the accountability puzzle.
The DOE is staffed by true believers of Florida’s test-based accountability system and it’s ingrained agendas remind of the US State Department. Maybe we should start calling the DOE “Foggy Bottom, but with Sunshine Laws.”