After Robinson resigns, federal review of FCAT proposed
Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 6:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 6:56 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE Following the abrupt resignation of Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on Wednesday asked the U.S. Department of Education to help review Florida's controversial FCAT exam.
Robinson, a former Virginia education commissioner handpicked by Gov. Rick Scott who had held the job for a little more than a year, resigned unexpectedly late Tuesday, saying he wanted to return to his family in Virginia. Robinson's resignation takes effect at the end of this month.
Robinson's time in office has been characterized by controversies over Florida's standardized testing program and his aggressive push to raise standards even higher.
In the last year, state officials had to revamp Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test writing scores when initially less than a third of fourth-graders passed the test. Later they had to recalibrate school grades when they admitted the initial calculations were flawed.
Castor's letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked the federal agency to help the state re-evaluate its testing scheme.
"The instability and unreliability of high-stakes testing, especially as demonstrated in the above circumstances, does not accurately measure student performance and puts many minority communities at a disadvantage," Castor, D-Tampa, wrote.
With Robinson's resignation, she added, "time is of the essence to find a solution to Florida's high-stakes testing."
Castor was joined by Joie Candle, president of the Florida School Boards Association, which in June passed a resolution calling on Scott, state lawmakers and the state Board of Education to hire an independent authority to review the state's testing system. The FSBA represents all 67 school districts in the state.
Candle said the local school boards strongly support accountability measures.
"But we want it to be fair and we want it to be transparent," Candle said.
Scott said on Wednesday that he was saddened by Robinson's decision, but understood his desire to rejoin his family.
"I think he did a good job," Scott said, adding Robinson supported the testing system while also connecting with students, parents and educators.
"I don't think that's an easy job," Scott said. "He worked hard at it."
Meanwhile, former Gov. Jeb Bush, who helped created the initial FCAT system and has been an outspoken supporter for rigorous testing, also praised Robinson's brief tenure.
"I thank Gerard for serving the students and teachers of Florida," Bush said in a statement. "He believes all children can learn, and this belief is evident in all he does."
Other Democrats joined Castor in saying Robinson's departure should prompt a re-evaluation of the FCAT system.
"The FCAT has failed students, teachers and our state," said state Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation. "A new state education commissioner can help Florida install a better and broader education accountability system for every school receiving taxpayer dollars that takes into account all the things students and teachers accomplish throughout the year."
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