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Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett Is Resigning Over Favoritism Scandal

| August 1, 2013

Nice knowing you. (Facebook)

Nice knowing you. (Facebook)

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is announcing his resignation today after revelations that he aggressively manipulated school grades in Indiana to favor a prominent Republican political donor, and a year to the day after his predecessor, Gerard Robinson, resigned amid another controversy over school grades.

The two resignations underscore the flammability of school grades resulting from high-stakes testing–a flammability opponents of such testing say belie the credibility of the testing and system.

Gov. Rick Scott gave Bennett the commissioner’s job in Florida last summer after Bennett lost a re-election bid in Indiana for a similar position. Scott has now lost three education commissioners in less than three years. He had pushed out Eric Smith after winning the governorship. The instability at the education department is yet another set-back for the state’s move toward the national Common Core standards, scheduled to go in full effect in the state–and in Flagler County–next year.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Bennett and his Indiana employees “frantically overhauled” the Hoosier State’s school-grading system last year when it looked like one of his political contributors’ schools might get a “C.”

“We did nothing wrong, we did nothing covert, we did nothing secret,” Bennett told reporters in a conference call on July 30. “The reports that came out of India a were reports that undeniably gave only part of a very important story.” Bennett also defended his recent recommendation, adopted by the state Board of Education, to again pad school grades to prevent them from falling too drastically this year. “It was to make sure that we transition ourselves to common core,” he said, “in a way that maintains the integrity of the grading system.”

Bennett said he was happy to set the record straight with reporters on Tuesday. But his explanations did not put the issue to rest. Rather, the controversy built, calls for his resignation mounted, and Bennett appeared to become a liability for Scott, who is running for re-election. Thursday morning, the Associated Press was first to report that he would be announcing his resignation.

Robinson announced his resignation last Aug. 1 after facing a month-long controversy over FCAT grades, including grading errors that forced the Florida Department of Education to change grades for dozens of schools, and the collapse in FCAT scores after the state adopted tougher standards. The Board of Education was forced to lower passing grades for the statewide writing tests in May 2012 after the passing rate plunged from 81 percent to 27 percent for fourth graders and showed similar drops in eighth and 10th grades.

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9 Responses for “Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett Is Resigning Over Favoritism Scandal”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Way to pick them Rick! Please everyone make him a one term Gov.

  2. Shocked, I tell you... says:

    Yay!!! He never should have been selected for the job.

    He states that the whole story was never told. Doesn’t matter. These are our kids, the ones who are paying the price for the politics of this. They deserve the best.

    Surely their must be someone suitable for the job who won’t try to manipulate things so the state looks better?

  3. Citizen says:

    Instead of raising the bar for passing we lower them to please the politicians. What a great education system we have. No wonder our students are starting to fall behind the rest of the world.

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    What great news! Although it appears our “brain trust” of a governor twisted Bennett’s arm to encourage him to resign. . . purely to keep Scott from looking even worse. What ever it takes. . . because Scott doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s going to be loosing his job also. YES!

  5. A.S.F. says:

    I see all Governor Scott’s friends are as upright and moral as he is.

  6. teacher says:

    Why even have school grades if DOE is going to “pad” them to make them look better? What are we TRULY measuring? Legislatures have made education about political gain, NOT about the students.

  7. Geezer says:

    Didn’t Tony forget his heart in San Francisco?
    That’s really why he’s leaving you know.

  8. Liana G says:

    So, is ‘the good life’ over for this Tony Bennett? Not likely. But he’s probably wishing that someone would ‘fly him to the moon’ until this is all blows over.

    So what happens to the career educators who were publicly pleading and begging Mr Bennett to FIX the grades?

    I didn’t know that Florida, because of the size of its student population, is one of the 5 mega states (Florida, Texas, California, Illinois, New York) whose education policies, results, and statistics are closely followed, and used to influence and assess national projections – even though their overall states scores are unimpressive. Why? Because enrollment in these 5 states make up 40% of the nation’s students. And NY city school district enrollment alone is larger than the student population of 35 states.

    From the NAEP: As policymakers and educators look at the nation’s changing demographics and explore ways to close achievement gaps, the educational progress of children in these states is of interest far beyond their state borders. That’s why the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Assessment Governing Board focused this special report on educational outcomes in the five largest states.

    It is interesting to note that Florida (5% / 260,202) has a smaller ELL population than CA (28% / 1,467,989) and TX (14% / 726,823) but get similar test results. NY has 5% / 237,634 and Illinois 2% /176,262.

    Also, FL spends more than CA and TX, less than NY and IL on per pupil public education but gets similar results. Income wise, TX (64%) has the highest poverty level, followed by FL (62%), CA (58%), NY (55%), IL (49%).

    • Geezer says:

      How about Tony’s Greatest Hits?
      It’s ironic just how applicable they actually are!
      (most anyway)

      1. Because Of You
      2. Rags To Riches
      3. Stranger In Paradise
      4. Sing You Sinners
      5. Just In Time
      6. The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
      7. Love Look Away
      8. Firefly
      9. Put On A Happy Face
      10. I Left My Heart In San Francisco
      11. I Wanna Be Around
      12. This Is All I Ask
      13. Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)
      14. The Shadow Of Your Smile
      15. Smile
      16. A Time For Love
      17. For Once In My Life
      18. Something
      19. (Where Do I Begin) Love Story
      20. Maybe This Time

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