Commissioner Tony Bennett resigns. School grades drop. Welcome to Florida's version of 'reform'

Orlando Sentinel Scott Maxwell talks with FOX35 about the state of Florida schools.

Florida's education system is a hot mess.

Our education commissioner resigned on the heels of a scandal. And we have record numbers of F-rated schools.

Welcome to Florida's version of "reform."

We've had about a decade of it now … and I'm not sure our kids can take anymore.

Think about it. Even before Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigned Thursday, we knew things were messed up.

"School grades take dive in Florida," read the headline in Saturday's Sentinel. "State sees record number of F-rated campuses."

This was a grading system set up by the so-called "reformers." They established the metrics. They set up the incentives and threats. They even manipulated the grades, not allowing them to drop more than one letter grade.

And their final product: record failures.

Honest brokers would admit the current, test-obsessed system isn't working.

But the reformers actually claimed the higher failure rates were fine and dandy — simply the result of higher standards.

It's a fascinating little world these reformers have created for themselves — one where they claim success whether scores rise or fall.

That's why I neither celebrate nor lament Bennett's resignation Thursday. He wasn't our main problem. He was merely a figurehead for it — a high-profile cog in a machine hellbent on undermining public schools.

They want less money for traditional schools and more money for private ones. And they promote schooling that values testing over education.

It started with Jeb Bush. And it's been on steroids ever since with Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP Legislature.

Personally, I believe in accountability. I believe good teachers should be rewarded and that bad teachers should be gone.

I also believe in standardized tests. But I believe they should be a measuring stick — not the goal. We shouldn't cut science, art and history classes to make more time for exercises in bubble-filling.

Public schools made this nation strong. I believe they still can.

But only if this state's leaders want them to succeed. And there is increasing evidence that they either don't — or they're incapable of making it happen.

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