In the heated competition between ACT Inc., and the College Board for a bigger chunk of the common-core testing market, ACT has enlisted a new weapon: Tony Bennett, the former commissioner of education in Indiana and Florida.
Bennett told me that he is serving as a consultant to ACT on its new Aspire testing system, working on test development, government relations (better known as lobbying), and other things.
“I’m doing everything from soup to nuts, helping them with a number of issues, giving them a chief’s perspective on things,” he said.
Bennett has moved back to southern Indiana and is now an independent consultant in education and business. He resigned in August as commissioner in Florida, in the wake of a controversy about manipulation of the school-rating system in Indiana when he was commissioner there.
UPDATE: ACT spokesman Ed Colby said he could not confirm that Bennett would be doing government relations work for the company, but did confirm that “ACT Aspire has hired him to consult on state level initiatives.”
“We understand his focus to be on initiatives related to ACT Aspire as states consider the future of their state assessment programs,” Colby said in an email.
Bennett’s role helping ACT market its Aspire system is only the latest in a series of high-powered talent grabs by the Iowa-based testmaker and by the New York City-based College Board, which is wading into the common-core test market in middle and high school. ACT hired the College Board’s longtime chief of research, Wayne Camara. College Board lured away a number of ACT luminaries, including education division chief Cynthia Schmeiser.
So Bennett gets his pay-off from the testing industry for leading the charge on PARCC. How about those companies falling all over themselves trying to sign Bennett as if he were a Cy Young Award winner? Nobody ever doubted that Bennett would land on his feet somewhere. It’s only been four months since he was forced to resign in disgrace for fixing a school grade for the charter school of a political contributor. The baseball analogy makes sense doesn’t it? Even the cheaters end up with big pay days