In Melissa Ross’s interview with Florida board of education chairman Gary Chartrand on WJTC radio this morning, Floridians were reminded of education commissioner’s Tony Bennett’s many conflicts of interests.
Explaining the difference between the two assessment consortiums which will create standardized tests for Common Core – SMARTER Balanced and PARCC – Chartrand mentioned as an aside that Bennett is the chairman of PARCC. Florida will be using PARCC. To be precise, PARCC classifies Florida as “a Governing State in and the Fiscal Agent for the PARCC Consortium.” As “fiscal agent,” Florida is designated as the state that makes the financial decisions on behalf of the other PARCC states – 2o and the District of Columbia. (UPDATE: Oklahoma drops out of PARCC)
On paper, the fiscal agent is Florida. In reality it’s Bennett. Indiana’s was designated as fiscal agent while Bennett was the state’s top educator. He brought the title with him to Florida.
There’s more associations. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has designated 8 current state education bosses as Chiefs for Change. Of the 22 states in PARCC, six are run by one of Bush’s Chiefs. The number of states is actually 7 as Indiana is still part of PARCC. Of Bush’s 8 Chief’s states, only Maine is not part of PARCC. Past Florida commissioners, Eric Smith and Gerard Robinson have Chiefs emeritus status. Smith is on PARCC’s governing board
Pearson has been a corporate sponsor of Bush’s foundation for some time. The testing giant bragged to potential investors in February this year that they had been awarded the contract for PARCC.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a consortium of 23 states, awarded Pearson and Educational Testing Service (ETS) the contract to develop test items that will be part of the new English and mathematics assessments to be administered from the 2014-2015 school year. The assessments will be based on what students need to be ready for college and careers, and will measure and track their progress along the way
There was likely considerable PARCC-Pearson panic when Bennett was defeated last November in Indiana. As it turns out, there was no need for panic. Bennett’s role as PARCC’s fiscal agent never left him. He was appointed state education commissioner by Florida’s Board of Education in December 2012 and didn’t leave his Indiana post until the next month.
Fast forward to the present. A so-called task force met yesterday in Tallahassee as to make proposals on changes to Florida’s school grade formula. The description of what took place as a task force is misleading and today’s news accounts made it obvious that the final decision is left up to Bennett. He in fact may have already made up his mind. Writes Leslie Postal in today’s Orlando Sentinel:
Chartrand said that if there needed to be a change to the grading formula, Bennett would have time to recommend one before the first batch of 2013 school grades is released, likely by the end of this month.
Bennett said if he did make recommendations for changes, he would make sure they made sense given that Florida is to switch to a new batch of state tests in 2015, which also will require alterations to the grading system. That year the state is to replace most of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests — a series of exams in math, reading, science and writing — with a new series of (PARCC) exams aligned with Common Core standards.
Bennett is among a group of policy and decision makers far too personally invested in PARCC’s success. With Bennett saying yesterday that he would be making a decision on the task force’s recommendation with 48 to 72 hours, it’s clear he isn’t going to spending much time considering them. Can he balance what’s best for Florida against his personal commitment to PARCC? Is he more devoted to PARCC than he is to Florida’s schools and children?