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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

PARCC meets without Florida commissioner Stewart



The PARCC governing board convened this morning without Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart, who remains for now at least the testing consortium's fiscal agent, in attendance.

Stewart, who represented Florida at past board's meetings (as did former commissioners Eric Smith and Gerard Robinson), instead sent Vince Verges, the department's assessment director and PARCC project director. Despite Gov. Rick Scott's call for Florida to end its leadership role with PARCC and to consider other testing options, Stewart said Verges carried no special message for the group.

"If he is called on to answer any questions, he can," Stewart said, noting that Verges was involved in the planning that led to Scott's executive order on Monday. "His purpose in attending is, as a participating state, Florida would be sitting at the table."

Stewart stressed that PARCC testing remains "one option" for Florida, "so it's important that we keep the door open."

She added, though, that Florida wants to make sure it gets the best assessments and standards for its students. So as commissioner she will support the review of other testing possibilities, as well as a "tweaking" of the standards.

"We will put out an intent to negotiate (ITN) in October or November," Stewart explained. "This will be for a shelf product or what we would term a semi-shelf product. Vendors would bring forth their product and we will move forward and make a decision."

Testing experts have told the Gradebook that fully reviewed and vetted "shelf products" do not exist. Stewart said her staff told her otherwise.

"There are certainly vendors that at the very least state that they have products that are available," she said. "We are confident that there are those out there that will come forward with their product when we put out this ITN."

Under the state constitution (see Article IX) and statute, Stewart does not report to the governor -- a point made clear by at least one board member when appointing her to the post permanently. But Steward said she believed the governor to be "within his right" to issue his executive order, which directs her to take several actions regarding PARCC and Common Core.

She said she viewed it as a request, and agreed with the idea of making certain that "there is not federal government overreach" into Florida's education system.

"I don't see us moving in a different direction," Stewart said. "I see us taking a good hard look to make sure we are doing the right thing."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 2:06pm]


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