Sen. Don Gaetz on Florida’s Ed Accountability System: “There’s a danger of all this imploding”

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.”

Oh. my.

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?

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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11 Responses to Sen. Don Gaetz on Florida’s Ed Accountability System: “There’s a danger of all this imploding”

  1. tom james says:

    Gaetz is a corrupt good old boy and a teacher hater. It’s time for this guy to go!
    Wonder if any of these corrupt and incompetent Republicans in Tallahassee ever bothered to think about what we deal with. As Grandma used to say: “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t”.

  2. Let me get this straight, Gatez wants more teachers to get bad evaluations because he thinks schools that perfrom poorly on standardized tests are staffed by bad teachers. He’s clueless and dangerous.

    • Bob Sikes says:

      Chris, Tom…That wasn’t my take away. I think Gaetz is at the very least acknowledging the disconnect between school grades and the SB 736 ratings. Its why he said the whole thing is in danger of collapsing. He tried to tell them that they were ramping up FCAT cuts too quickly. I actually believe that John Legg might agree with Gaetz and we already know that Monford does. Now Weatherford is another story. He’s a Bush disciple. But Gaetz has put him under pressure. Watch the FCOC and Bush loyalists this week.

      • tom james says:

        You’re probably right but don’t be deceived by the slick talking Mr. Gaetz. (You probably know him better since you are from Ft. Walton and worked under him there). I knew him when he was a relative newcomer and had just come from the Superintendency of Walton County. At first he seemed genuine compared to the other teacher hating Republicans in Tallahassee. He also appeared not to be into the political corruption games. Now that he has ascended to the Senate Presidency he’s become a smug, arrogant, fork tongued double dealer who says one thing and does another. He’s a whole lot smarter than Mikey Haridopolous but the overall agenda hasn’t changed.

      • Marina says:

        I think you’re right Bob. They almost have no choice but to admit that there’s a problem. Even the Miami Herald has been reporting about how well the state is doing compared to the rest of the country, and how much our scores have improved. They’ve also reported that our reading scores in some grades our better than many of the top nations in the world. There’s no way that both things can be true, but Jeb Bush’s people who are promoting charter schools are still sticking to the spin despite the facts. Maybe enough people are learning the truth and Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Bennett have no choice but to backtrack some now. Also, according to the Department of Education findings, “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”. Last time I checked, a “C” was still average. I wonder what percent of those schools are REALLY struggling “D” and “F”schools.

  3. kafkateach says:

    Maybe it’s the full moon, but between Rick Scott wanting to give teachers a raise, Bennett saying SB 376 might need to be tweaked, and Gaetz admitting that this whole system is in danger of imploding on itself, it feels like the invasion of the body snatchers has hit Florida.

    • Marina says:

      You’re right, but I’m sure there must be some election in the near future. That’s the only logical explanation I can think of. They know that just about every teacher in the state, along with their families will vote against them if they don’t “talk nice” about us.

    • Marina says:

      Besides, Rick Scott isn’t really giving us a raise. According to the Miami Herald, he took the 3% they made us contribute to our retirement fund and used it to balance the state budget with. In reality part of that “raise” is the money he stole from our retirement fund in the first place. He’s just trying to make himself look like a hero now. Who does he think he’s kidding!!

  4. Rory Robinson says:

    I have to say my initial reaction to this article was that they will toughen up the teacher evaluations to justify the low test scores. We all know what they want to do. This just hasn’t been working out for them. I don’t see them abandoning this ship, even if they are looking bad.

    • Marina says:

      The Republicans keep telling us the scores are low, but if you read the newspapers, they are reporting facts to the contrary…or at least the Miami Herald is. The Orlando Sentinel reported on January 28,2013 that in 2011 the state participated in 2 international tests. They will be participating in the testing again soon. Keep in mind that the Progress in International Literacy Study, one of the international tests, measures fourth-grade reading skills. The results are as follows.

      “On the reading exam, Florida’s fourth-graders were second in the world and above the national average in the United States, which was ranked seventh. The Sunshine State bested both Finland and Singapore, typically top performers on international tests…Florida was behind some top-performing states such as Massachusetts in both math and science, but, like the nation, it was ahead of some European countries while trailing the high-flying Asian ones such as South Korea…The reading test results mirror those of the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which also showed Florida’s fourth-graders ahead of the nation in reading. That test, dubbed the “nation’s report card,” is considered the best state-to-state comparison of student achievement.”

      I think this is pretty impressive considering how little the State of Florida invests in education compared to the national average. There’s nothing “low” about that!

  5. Pingback: Floridia ed reform and ‘a danger of all this imploding’

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