Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson has made what appears to be an anguishing personal decision to return to his family in Virginia, because his wife, a law professor, has been unable to find a comparable position in Florida. And yet the announcement Tuesday was greeted with a level of vitriol that can only speak to the state’s nasty educational divide.
An anti-testing group released a statement deriding Robinson’s “so-called accomplishments” as tied to a testing system that “has been completely discredited.” A Democratic lawmaker called the departure “a clear indicator … that recent destructive education reform measures … are harmful to the morale and productivity of students and teachers.” A Florida School Boards Association leader accused Robinson of “doing the bidding” of the state Board of Education, as though she doesn’t expect the same of her own superintendent. Predictably, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss offered a conspiracy theory – that Robinson was being offered as a “scapegoat” to divert attention from the FCAT. A Democratic congresswoman who should know better actually called for a federal review of the FCAT.
You get the picture.
Now, it is certainly true that the Department of Education had issues with the FCAT writing test and bungled the initial release of school grades this year. And it is also true that much – maybe too much – rides on the performance of students on state testing. But nothing in Robinson’s 13 months on the job warrants such public venom, and you don’t have to defend him to recognize his convenience as a punching bag. So let’s call this another temperature check in the fever over educational accountability.