Rick Scott's new education push: The letter
As noted in our story today, Gov. Rick Scott's education listening tour came along with a letter of explanation to the Florida Council of 100.
In the letter, Scott emphasized his view that the "most important thing we can do for our kids" is ensure they have the opportunity to get an education. The listening tour, he explained, is a way to hear whether selected teachers and parents (his sessions are by invitation only) think the state is on the right path toward getting all children prepared for college and careers.
That message of college and careers has been his focus for some time now, one repeated frequently by Scott's former education commissioner Gerard Robinson, who resigned abruptly this summer after a rocky year on the job. That goal, though simple, is "the reason we send our children to school and the reason the state must continue to support education in our state."
Scott listed six primary objectives toward that aim:
- Link everything we do to preparation with college and careers
- Maintain strong accountability measures that are fair, clear and consistent
- Make assessements purposeful, diagnostic and applicable
- Reward teachers who make student achievement possible
- Empower parents to improve student outcomes
- Provide choices and competition to parents and students
Is his message on track with the others who have been leading Florida's education system for the past decade? In most ways, yes. He adheres closely to the push for testing and accountability, choice and competition, as well as the notion that education is a means to an end. But there are hints, too, that he's heard the criticisms and if nothing else is nodding toward them, if not fixing them.
Scott talks about testing that has a purpose, amid a growing drumbeat of accusations that the state's testing system is punitive and carries too many high stakes. He writes that Florida "must work with teachers to declare war on failure," and not declare war on the teachers that the state counts on to implement the most important changes. That comes not because the decision makers have said there's been too much teacher bashing, but the allegations of teacher bashing exist. Now that the toughest "reform" measures such as evaluations tied to test results are in place, perhaps it makes more sense to say they want to work with teachers rather than against them.
There's been much cynicism about the governor's goals and objectives when it comes to education. Teacher union leaders have pointedly noted that it's easy to talk the talk, but that Scott has walked the walk of someone who has cut education funding, eliminated continuing contracts, tried to force employees to pay for their pensions and a host of other negatives.
Can Scott be trying to indicate a change of direction? Or just deflecting the cynics? Read his letter and see what you think.
[Hat tip to Redefined for getting the letter online.]