Don Gaetz says education not where it should be

State Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) said today, during his visit to the IN offices, the Florida Department of Education was hit with a “trifecta of tough issues,” and did a very poor job of implementing the FCAT 2.0 changes and the new school grading formula.

And with the state’s move to Common Core Standards, Gaetz said, “An implosion (in education) is ready to happen.”

“The Common Core Standards are being adopted by states so that we can define what makes a good middle and high student,” he said. “The body knowledge for geometry is same in Indiana as Florida. The basic facts of the War of 1812 are the same in North Dakota as they are in Escambia County.”

Gaetz, who is the incoming Florida Senate President and was the Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools before his election to the state legislature in 2006, maintained the Common Core Standards ensure that Florida students can compete with those from other states for good jobs and colleges.

“Conceptually, this is a very good thing,” said Gaetz, “but we haven’t completely or properly implemented them.”

Gaetz said that the education “trifecta”–that eventually led to Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson resigning this summer– consisted of the new FCAT 2.0 standards, the establishment of new teacher evaluation systems that define an effective teacher and the implementation of end-of-course exams.

The FCAT grading systems were changed mid-term. No teacher evaluation systems have been designed, and there are no valid, reliable end-of-course exams for more than a fraction of the courses in Florida public schools, according to the senate president.

“We have to implement these programs before we start to thrust more down the pipe to our local schools,” said Gaetz. “These are all difficult to implement without a lot of good thought and input.”

Gaetz believes that the Florida Department of Education has become “at best an apologist for change, not a implementer and problem solver.”

He said, “Our public education system is not where it should be.”

Sen. Gaetz also talked about offshore drilling, his proposed ethics bill and the two bills that he sponsored last year and were passed that will better tie higher education with the realities of the economy. I will post those discussions tomorrow morning.