Why It’s Time to Question Tony Bennett’s Priorities: Common Core-PARCC or Florida?

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July 5, 2013

Originally published: July 3, 2013

Florida Public Employees


B – Scathing Purple Musings

Just one day after the governing board of PARCC met in Washington, DC last week to “take key votes, announce field testing plans, and give progress updates,” Florida’s education commissioner Tony Bennett – a member of that governing board – joined Governor Rick Scott in a meeting with 40 state teachers of the year. The Florida Current reports that Bennett said this at that meeting with teachers:

“The implication of Common Core will be one of the largest policy implications lifts the states have engaged in the history of education,” Bennett said during the talk with about 40 teachers. “In the very near short-term we’re going to have to make some decisions  about what will be the assessment regimen for Common Core — if you were going to ask me what is item No. 1 for the next 30 to 60 days, that’s item No. 1.”

While it’s unclear whether or not Bennett was in DC or on video conference, it’s clear that what transpired at the PARCC meeting in DC greatly influenced what he told Florida teachers the day after the meeting. Moreover, it’s clear that Common Core-PARCC was on his mind when he took part in the task force with five superintendents of schools and Sen. Bill Montford this past Monday. It was five days after the  PARCC meeting in DC and four after the one he had with Scott and teachers. The Orlando Sentinel characterizes Bennett’s comments at Monday’s task force meeting this way:

Bennett said if he did make recommendations for changes, he would make sure they made sense given that Florida is to switch to a new batch of state tests in 2015, which also will require alterations to the grading system. That year the state is to replace most of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (PARCC) — a series of exams in math, reading, science and writing — with a new series of exams aligned with Common Core standards.

It would be acceptable if Bennett were devoted to Common-Core PARCC on solely on a philosophical basis, but he’s not. He’s major player of something far bigger than the interests of Florida’s schools and children. Bennett’s rhetoric confirms as much. For today’s education reformers, Common Core-PARCC puts final control of the nation’s education apparatus in their hands.

Bennett has made sure he is insulated from naysayers and opposition that may emerge in the FLDOE and on the state board. His top two staffers, Will Krebs and Dale Chu came with him form Indiana.  Bennett put them both what’s quickly turning out to be a bogus school grades task force.  He’s made clear he’s already made up his mind.

Scathing Purple Musings reported here yesterday that Bennett also serves as the fiscal agent for the 21 member states of PARCC and brought the job with him from Indiana. Bennett can no longer deny that he has a conflict of interest. It is time for him to address these conflicts with members of the Florida media and his immediate superiors on the state board.

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