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Bennett Resignation Won't Stop School Grades Or Common Core

The sudden departure of Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett last week appears unlikely to disrupt the trajectory of public education in the state.

Bennett’s resignation over changes in the way Indiana school grades were calculated during his tenure as head of Indiana public schools has called into question recent changes to Florida’s school grading system enacted under his leadership. The changes include raising the proficiency threshold from a score of 3 to 3.5 on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, writing test and implementing a safety net for schools in danger of dropping more than a single letter grade last year.  

State School Board Chairman and Jacksonville businessman Gary Chartrand says Florida’s school grading system, while basically sound, could use a tweak or two. 

“One of the things that really hit me as I looked into it was that if you take a look at the grading point system for middle school, let’s say, you have an 800 point system. So you have the opportunity to earn 800 points. You can drop 10 percentage points, or 80 points, and go from a B to an F,” he says.

He favors creating a school report card that would include things like learning gains made by students.

According to Chartrand, a task force Bennett was putting together to review Florida’s school grading system will continue under interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

“As we move into Common Core and as we choose an assessment vehicle, we have a unique opportunity to address this issue, the school grades, the accountability system, and get it right,” he said.

Florida is one of more than 40 states participating in the Common Core Initiative, which is designed to align academic standards across the country.

Chartrand says the state board of education will discuss whether to do a formal search for Bennett’s permanent replacement when it meets in September.

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.