Friday, August 2, 2013

Florida needs a state superintendent

...again. This will make four for Governor Rick Scott in Florida, who brought Tony Bennett in as state superintendent in January. 
Bennett was voted out of his elected position as state superintendent in Indiana last year due to the unpopularity of his "reformiest" policies, from teacher evaluation to the statewide school grading scheme that brought him down.
Associate Press reporter Tom LoBianco broke the story earlier this week that Bennett had altered the Indiana statewide grading system that he brought in for schools when a favored charter school run by a major Bennett campaign donor would have received a C:
...trouble loomed when Indiana's then-grading director, Jon Gubera, first alerted Bennett on Sept. 12 that the Christel House Academy had scored less than an A.
"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012, email to Neal.
Neal fired back a few minutes later, "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."
By Sept. 13, Gubera unveiled it was a 2.9, or a "C."
A weeklong behind-the-scenes scramble ensued among Bennett, assistant superintendent Dale Chu, Gubera, Neal and other top staff at the Indiana Department of Education. They examined ways to lift Christel House from a "C'' to an "A," including adjusting the presentation of color charts to make a high "B'' look like an "A'' and changing the grade just for Christel House.
(The AP has posted all of the emails, received through a public documents request, here.)
 Despite tweets from Michelle Rhee, statements from the Fordham Institute, and a general attempt to circle the "reformy" wagons, the damage was done and Bennett resigned Thursday.
I'm just going to interject here and point out that, despite Secretary Duncan's comment, it wasn't the transparency of the grading system that worked here; it's the public document laws and a press that has its eye on the ball. Score one for Mr. LoBianco, but it shouldn't have been necessary for him to request the documents. This never should have happened in the first place.
The new Politico Education blog is asking today what this means for school grading formulas. There's also this connection:

I'd also point out that this continues the theme of perceived miracle workers who fix the system when the miracles don't happen.
Education is hard work. There are no shortcuts.

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