Last year’s abrupt departure of Florida’s education commissioner, Tony Bennett, put the brakes on the ideological insanity that drove the state’s education policy-making. After three straight commissioners who were tools of Jeb Bush’ s foundations, it was time to have someone different. Pam Stewart has brought much-needed deliberate, thoughtful process back to the table. The Orlando Sentinel’s excellent education reporter, Leslie Postal, gives a review of what’s happened over the last few months with Florida’s testing regime:
A recent memo from Education Commissioner Pam Stewart suggested state educators want to tread carefully.
“Florida is engaged in a fair and open process … leaving all options available as we move forward with the statewide assessment decision,” she wrote.
In 2010, Florida adopted Common Core, then joined a group of about 20 other states to devise new standardized tests tied to those standards. The exams created by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers were to replace FCAT’s math, reading and writing exams, which are aligned to older state standards.
But earlier this year, as opposition to Common Core heated up, state leaders said they were unhappy with those so-called PARCC exams, worried they would take too long and cost too much.
So at Gov. Rick Scott’s request, the Florida Department of Education posted an advertisement in late October, seeking testing proposals from any interested test-maker. It also started reviewing Common Core for possible changes. The new standards adopted by 45 states are meant to be more rigorous, but critics say they represent a federal intrusion into public education, among other issues.
Test proposals are due on Dec. 16, and the state plans to make a decision in March. PARCC and some of the country’s largest testing companies are expected to make bids. The new exams are to debut next spring.
None of this could have happened if Bennett had still been around. He was PARCC’s point man and was far to invested in its success. Anyone who would fix the school grade for a charter school belonging to a big donor was terribly wrong for the job. Indiana is still poisoned by the culture of divisiveness he fostered. Luckily for Florida, he wasn’t here long.
Jeb Bush’s top policy wonk, Matt Ladner, last week called “the Florida reform model cocktail” a “highly beneficial beverage.” If Ladner puts himself out there more often, he’ll start sounding like those talking heads we see everyday who are telling us everything is just swell with Obamacare.
But the “roll-out” of Jeb Bush’s education reforms – JebSchools, if you will- have gone on for a decade and they still can’t get that metaphorical “back-end” right either. Yearly changes to school grade formulas (we still don’t have last year’s high school grades), testing controversies and teacher evaluations generating too many effective teachers are the new reality. And after a decade of JebSchools, Florida 15 year-olds are “falling behind.”
JebSchools’ mouthpieces lecture that there are “no excuses” and that “change is hard.” We must only work harder – and test more, you see.
Unlike Obama, Bush has taken no responsibility for the chaos that’s ensued around the nation where republican governors welcomed JebSchools to their states. Bush doesn’t care what critics say. The roll-out of Common Core is on Bush, too. ALEC wanted to publicly oppose Core three years ago, but Bush stopped them. My liberal friends are still stunned they found common cause with ALEC on Common Core.
ObamaCare promised “to bend the cost curve down” and “that if you like your insurance, you can keep it.” JebSchools were all about “holding teachers accountable” and “raising the bar.” Big government solutions both – neither living up to their mantras and both leaving out the professionals and the other side in their conception.