Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bennett Lands Florida's Top Education Job

As it turns out, losing re-election as Indiana's State Superintendent of Public Instruction may have been one of the best things to happen to Tony Bennett. Today, the Florida Board of Education chose Bennett to serve as the state's new education commissioner, a post that pays $275,000 a year compared to the $79,400 he currently earns in his Indiana post. The Florida board's vote to hire Bennett over nearly 50 other applicants for the job was unanimous. Proponents of education reform in Florida have dubbed Bennett a "rock star" figure who had the strong backing of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a key proponent of efforts to reform education in the Sunshine State. The Tampa Bay Times reports on Bennett's selection:
"His ability to be up to speed quickly would be very important for the state of Florida," board member John Padget said of Bennett.

Board member A.K. Desai praised Bennett for his pledge to stick to accountability and reform efforts, but also travel the state to hear how stakeholders can be more a part of the system.

"Bringing them on board will be absolutely necessary," Desai said. "He heard that from all of us … and he has expressed his willingness to take on that very important task."

"We have a great opportunity to continue Florida's moment," Bennett said, receiving applause after the unanimous board vote.

In his interview with the board on Tuesday, Bennett talked mostly about philosophy and policy.

He spoke about the importance of keeping students first in mind and not letting any fall behind. He argued that there's no such thing as teaching to the test if a state is using a valid assessment to determine whether students have learned the academic standards that teachers are supposed to be teaching.
"Assessment doesn't sit aside from instruction," he said. "It is part of instruction."

Bennett also spoke passionately about the need to implement the Common Core standards, which Florida has adopted. His support of the standards contributed to his election loss in Indiana, as some in the tea party opposed the idea of a "national curriculum."
Bennett and others have rejected the idea that the Common Core, which provides optional academic guidelines, is a national curriculum.
To make good policy work, Bennett stressed, the state must pair its policy discussion with its budget discussion to ensure money gets to the right programs. He said he would "absolutely" tell the board and governor if he felt they were heading in the wrong direction.

1 comment:

Pete Boggs said...

In a state where weekly awards like tshirts and posters, for attendance were commonplace in the joke known as public schools, Bennett could do some major good if they let him.