ASK.com defines task force in its online dictionary thus:
a unit or formation established to work on a single defined task or activity. Originally introduced by the United States Navy, the term has now caught on for general usage and is a standard part of NATO terminology. Many non-military organizations now create “task forces” or task groups for temporary activities that might have once been performed by ad hoc committees.
The online site goes further and details how the term applies to government:
In government or business a task force is a temporary organization created to solve a particular problem. It is considered to be a more formal ad-hoc committee.
A taskforce, or more-commonly task force, is a special committee, usually of experts, formed expressly for the purpose of studying a particular problem. The task force usually performs some sort of an audit to assess the current situation, then draws up a list of all the current problems present and evaluates which ones merit fixing and which ones are actually fixable. The task force would then formulate a set of solutions to the problems and pick the “best” solution to each problem, as determined by some set of standards. For example, a task force set up to eliminate excessive government spending might consider a “best” solution to be one that saves the most money. Normally, the task force then presents its findings and proposed solutions to the institution that called for its formation; it is then up to the institution itself to actually act upon the task force’s recommendations
As it turns out, the institution is made of one man, education commissioner Tony Bennett. Writes Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel:
Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said Monday he could recommend changes to Florida’s A-to-F school grading system but won’t do so out of a desire to soften the blow of poor grades or to reduce the number of F-grade campuses.
Meeting with a school grades advisory task force he appointed, Bennett said he understands superintendents are worried that school grades would fall this year. But he said his focus will be on state policies.
“For a state that has led the country…in accountability and increasing student performance…this shouldn’t be about reducing the number of F’s,” he said as the group opened its meeting in Tallahassee.
While Postal writes that Bennett will make his recommendations to Chartrand by July 16. Chartrand told Postal that “Bennett would have time to recommend one before the first batch of 2013 school grades is released, likely by the end of this month.”
This doesn’t jive with timeline StateImpact reporter John O’Connor provided. He wrote that Bennett said “he will recommend changes to the state’s A through F school grading system by the end of the week.” O’Connor narrowed that time frame down further and wrote Bennett would “recommend changes in the next 48 to 72 hours and that the State Board of Education could vote on them in mid-July.”
Two top-flight reporters were obviously told two different things by Bennett or someone speaking for him. Postal’s timeline – a much more practical one – involves speaking with Chartrand. O’Connor’s just Bennett. Has O’Connor unmasked Chartrand and Bennett’s task force to be a sham?
If Bennett will be making his recommendations to Chartrand before the week is out as O’Connor writes, it means that he has already made up his mind and that the members of the task have traveled to Tallahassee on a fool’s errand. A couple of days aren’t nearly enough time to come up with a consensus. Chartrand and Bennett used five busy superintendents of schools and Sen. Bill Montford as tools to give them political cover. They never had any intention of listening to the task force or considering any suggestions.
Moreover, it’s clear that describing this as some sort of task force is misleading. Bennett’s the final arbiter. While the superintendents appears to have made suggestions to the school grade formula as a task force would, what role the rest of the group played is unclear. Did Chartrand and Bennett just call it a task force to make it appear they were actually doing more than they were?