Sun Sentinel: Gov. Scott creating chaos in education
Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
5:47 p.m. EDT, September 25, 2013
The governor said Tuesday he doesn't want the federal government intruding into Florida's education system, his excuse for pulling out of the consortium. "It's their entry point to having more involvement in our education system … It's 'no' to federal intrusion."
But the federal government isn't creating the test. Rather, it's being developed by a consortium of states that now numbers 17.
"We should be able to come up with an assessment that works for us," the governor said.
Really? Why should Floridians have confidence that by a March deadline, Florida will be ready to roll out a new test that holds enormous power over students, teachers, school systems and neighborhoods?
Remember, the past two years, Florida has so bungled FCAT administration that it has had to artificially inflate school grades, allowing none to drop more than one letter grade per year.
Remember, too, there's a revolving door at the office of the state education commissioner. During his 32 months in office, Gov. Scott has had four education commissioners. Our newest, Pam Stewart, has been on the job just over a week. She follows Eric Smith, Gerard Robinson and Tony Bennett.
Also remember that in August, the governor abruptly convened a three-day education summit — and then failed to attend. Kathleen Shanahan, a former chair of the state board of education, called his behavior "embarrassing." Her words carry weight because she was once chief of staff to former Gov. Jeb Bush, who earned a real reputation as "the education governor" and remains a leader in promoting the new Common Core State Standards on which students will be tested next year.
Instead, Gov. Scott now plans to convene "public comment sessions" on possible changes to the Common Core standards, which are designed to encourage critical thinking over rote memorization.
After three years of work, and facing a hard deadline, now is not the time to start asking the general public what the state's education standards should be. Let us leave such details to the experts.
Besides, why now? Last year, the governor touted the standards and next year's rollout of the test, which is supposed to help us compare our schools to those in other states. Now — a month into the last school year for the FCAT — he wants to send us off in a new direction?
Florida has been working on Common Core for three years. The standards are fully implemented in kindergarten through second grade and are being blended in grades 3-12 this year. The first test is supposed to be finished by March. The clock is ticking.
Gov. Scott has said he supports Common Core, but then he also said he supported the expansion of Medicaid and did nothing to make it happen.
A better explanation for the governor's reversal is a desire to soothe his tea party base, which opposes national education standards, especially since they're supported by the Obama administration.
Another explanation is that there's a lot of money involved in creating and implementing the test, and lobbyists would like a crack at a state-specific contract.
"Why does Florida needs its own test?" asks Patricia De Biase, a teacher at Indian Trace Elementary in Weston. "Why are we so special?"
Unfortunately, the governor offers no good answers.