In a story by Florida Current’s James Call, powerful Florida senate president Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) made a some stunning admissions.
“If you have a C school, 90 percent of the teachers in a C school can’t be highly effective. That doesn’t make sense,” Gaetz said.
Results released in December by the Department of Education revealed that 96 percent of all Florida teachers are rated effective or highly effective in their job. But school grades from earlier in the year showed that 27 percent of elementary, 36 percent of middle and 21 percent of the state’s high schools were given a letter grade of C or lower. The disparity in the ratings of the statewide faculty and schools raise questions about the reliability of the measurements Florida is using.
Newly appointed Education Commissioner Tony Bennett told lawmakers this week that the evaluation system may need to be “tweaked.”
“We want to make sure that we provide flexibility to implement the law with fidelity because the law is really not useful if the law is not well implemented,” Bennett told a Senate committee.
Gaetz said he did not know whether problems with the evaluation process are the result of procedures that originated at the state, district or school level. He called on Bennett and other educators to simplify the process.
“I also think that it can’t be such a complicated process that people can’t explain it,” Gaetz said. “When you add that to end-of-course exams, and you add that to other things that are happening in education, there’s a danger of all this imploding and causing a real credibility problem for the Department of Education.”
While these predication have been made for the last year – two outgoing superintendents did the same last spring – to have one of the state’s top republican legislators say so during the run up to the legislative session takes your breath away. Did Gaetz wander off the reservation and will he be getting a phone call? Perhaps. But Gaetz is a man who chooses his words carefully and doesn’t commit gaffes. Nor is he one to be easily persuaded from a position he’s already taken publicly.
Meanwhile, Jeb Bush travels the nation selling this same Florida model to any state legislature who will listen. Some of the state board members close to Bush and whom he appointed admitted that recent accountability data releases are “making us look bad.”
Does Gaetz’ public statement indicate that daylight is beginning to appear between the republican delegation and Bush’s foundations? Will Bush be able to get the Florida Chamber of Commerce to apply its muscle to state GOP legislators – and Bennett – to keep them in line?