Two of Florida’s top political reporters, Mary Ellen Klas and Steve Bousquet have a Sunday story highlighting some critical interventions of Rick Scott’s new chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth. According to the two reporters, Hollingsworth had a hand in the DOE’s positive change in 213 school grades.
A week after Hollingsworth started his new job, school districts raised doubts about a new grading formula for the second time in months. Hollingsworth intervened, the Department of Education was forced to issue new grades for 213 schools and last week, Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson resigned, citing family reasons.
Robinson’s Department of Education was forcedto change grades? And because Scott’s chief of staff told them to?
This is a far cry from the talking points the DOE advanced. Here’s the DOE’s July 20 press release which explained the changes:
Tallahassee, Fla., July 20, 2012 – Today the Florida Department of Education notified 40 superintendents around the state about preliminary revisions to the initial school grades released earlier this month. The A to F school grades report for Florida’s elementary, middle and combination schools (not including those with high school grades) was calculated by the department, validated independently by Florida State University, and released July 11.
During the continuous review process, the department identified preliminary revisions for both schools and districts that will result in increases. The revisions involved 213 of the initially graded 2,586 schools…….
These changes were identified during the review process that occurs between the time initial school grades are released and final school grades are published after an appeals process has been completed. This phase of the school grading process, which involves district validation, is important because it provides transparency and helps ensure the final grades are correct.
Why would Scott’s chief of staff be involved in what the DOE characterizes as a “continuous review process?” For the appropriate questions not to be asked of Scott, Robinson and the DOE, two top-shelf political reporters will have to walk back their reporting that asserts Hollinsworth was involved in forcing changes that improved the grades of 213 schools and nine districts. As Klas and Bousquet indicate grades were “an embarrassment,” their story leads to the conclusion that Hollingsworth only sought grade improvements.
Initial oversight belongs to a republican dominated legislature which has proved to have conflicts of interest. With a member of the governor’s staff involved, a highly partisan AG like Pam Bondi is also the wrong person to investigate. Once considered bluster, Tampa US Rep. Kathy Castor’s call for a federal FCAT investigation no longer seems so far-fetched.