After a year of difficult headlines for public schools in the Sunshine State, Florida Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson has announced that he will step down from his position on Aug. 31, citing the difficulty in being away from his family as the reason he is leaving his post after about a year on the job.
In a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) posted on the Tampa Bay Times’ website, Robinson highlighted various accomplishments of the state’s public schools and his department during his tenure, including new reading and math achievement standards on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, “broadening” discussions about preparing for the Common Core State Standards, and improving learning opportunities for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.
The rough sailing for K-12 education in Florida over the past 12 months has been well-documented, although perhaps the most unsettling development occurred in the spring, when the state school board rushed to change the passing scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in writing after scores plunged precipitously, triggering confusion and criticism in the state. As the Associated Press notes in its story today, falling school grades on Florida’s A-F accountability system also triggered alarm in the state. Even when the news was ostensibly good, specifically when the state raised the initial grades of various schools in July, the focus was on how the accountability system erred in giving those schools the lower grades in the first place.
In his resignation letter Robinson also highlighted his efforts to disseminate more information about changes underway in Florida’s standards in academics and accountability. He did go on a town hall-type of tour after the FCAT writing scores caused a ruckus, and the department created a “Just for Parents” information portal to educate them about those transitions.
It’s fair to point out that the major changes leading to bad headlines in Florida over the past year were set in motion several years before the state school board appointed Robinson in June 2011. In 2008, for example, the state legislature (by a unanimous vote) directed the department to come up with tougher FCAT standards. In a sense, that baton was passed on to Robinson, but it turned out to be something of a hot potato. It’s not necessarily easy to imagine that another education commissioner less than a year on the job could have had a smooth ride in the face of those changes.
Robinson came to Florida after serving as Secretary of Education in Virginia under Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, and has also led the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.