School reform is "who we are," education commmissioner Smith says
There's been a lot of focus on the money that President Obama's Race to the Top might bring for Florida's education system if the state wins a portion of the $4.35 billion grant.
Even Gov. Charlie Crist has suggested that the award could help chip away at the state's bleak budget (although the money would come with loads of strings that likely would prevent that).
Yet US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stressed that while the money is nice, Race to the Top "isn't about the money." It's about challenging the states to improve schooling for children.
That's what Florida education commissioner Eric J. Smith is all about.
Smith told the Gradebook that Florida already is working with universities, think tanks and school districts to find the best ways to overhaul teacher quality, student assessment, graduation requirements and a host of other items he figures will push Florida to the next level. Legislation on tenure and end-of-course exams are but examples of the movement, he said.
The federal money would simply help get Florida there more quickly than if the state doesn't win the grant, he said.
"Race to the Top isn't just another grant application. It's embedded in all the work that we're doing with reform here in Florida," Smith said. "This is who we are and this is what we are trying to do."
Whether you like what they're trying to do is another matter. Just ask the teacher unions.