Florida's education commissioner: Another view on who's next
Who should Florida's next education commissioner be?
Without changes to the state's underlying philosophy on public schooling, it's probably a non-issue, suggests education historian Diane Ravitch, one of the nation's leading critics of the national "reform" movement of which Florida is considered a leading player.
"If Florida insists on hanging onto the status quo of high-stakes testing, teacher-bashing and privatization, then it really doesn't matter who gets hired," Ravitch told the Gradebook.
We turned to Ravitch for her views at the recommendation of a reader, who contended that the views of think-tanker Chester Finn Jr. that we offered on Friday needed some balance. Ravitch focused more on ideas than names.
"The problem that Florida has is that the state needs real reform, not more of the same, and the kind of commissioner who would bring real reform would not likely be chosen by your state board of education," she said via e-mail. "Before picking names, Florida should be thinking about what needs to change."
She criticized the state's heavy focus on testing, and said the new commissioner needs to understand the issue and be willing to take a different approach to accountability. She argued that "incompetent and money-hungry charter operators" have overrun Florida and the new commissioner needs to control them. And she contended that leaders in Tallahassee have overloaded demoralized teachers with regulations, adding that the new commissioner should encourage lawmakers to take a more positive attitude toward the state's classroom professionals.
"If Florida has the right goals," Ravitch said, "it will find the right commissioner."