State Legislator Upset Over Board Of Educations “Desired Characteristics” For The Next Commissioner

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State Representative Reggie Fullwood (D-Jacksonville) issued the following statement regarding the State Board of Education’s approval today of the “desired characteristics” it wants in Florida’s next education commissioner.

Representative Fullwood sent a letter to former State Board Chair Kathleen Shanahan on Thursday asking that the next commissioner be a strong advocate for public schools, reduce the state’s reliance on standardized high-stakes testing for accountability purposes, and consider all education stakeholders’ thoughts and concerns as Florida contemplates new education reforms.

The following is a statement from Representative Fullwood about today’s Board action:

“It is gratifying that the State Board of Education appears to be making it a priority to hire a commissioner who is committed to obtaining the input of parents and education stakeholders as future education reforms are contemplated. However, it is disappointing that the Board, by its actions today, remains anxious to hire yet another advocate for private-schools vouchers or a proponent of private virtual school operators. I believe Floridians expect our next state education commissioner to be committed – first and foremost — to Florida’s public schools and public school students.”

Below is the text of a letter submitted Thursday by Representative Fullwood:

September 6, 2012

Ms. Kathleen Shanahan
Chair, State Board of Education
325 W. Gaines Street
Suite 1520
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

Dear Chair Shanahan and members of the State Board of Education:

I have read with interest the criteria you are considering in the search for a new commissioner of education. As a legislator who is significantly concerned about the future of our state’s system of education, I urge you to amend your search criteria to ensure that Florida hires a commissioner who will bring a more collaborative approach as we strive to create the best school system in the United States. This means that our next commissioner should be willing to work with parents, educators, local school boards, and all legislators regardless of party affiliation.

In advance of your scheduled Friday telephone conference call on the topic, I urge you to give consideration to the following:

Specifically, among desired characteristics the State Board of Education may want to add to its list of criteria are: a Commissioner of Education who: (1) will aggressively advocate on behalf of Florida’s public schools; (2) is committed to working in a bipartisan fashion and engage in cooperative dialogue with all legislators, local officials and others regardless of political affiliation; (3) is committed developing a broadly based public school assessment system that relies more heavily on tests and measures designed for assessment purposes instead of using high stakes standardized tests for punishing and rewarding students, teachers and schools; and (4) will work cooperatively with all key stakeholders in the education community, including but not limited to representatives of teacher organizations, superintendents and parent groups.

In addition, I would encourage the Board to give serious consideration to additional recommendations that have been offered today in a letter to Governor Rick Scott from a coalition of parent and teacher groups. In their letter, the coalition group states that Florida needs a commissioner who (1) will collaborate with parents, educators, community organizations, and local elected officials to restructure the flawed accountability system into a credible system that informs and improves learning, rather than punishes; (2) is committed to ensuring that districts eliminate zero tolerance and implement fair, supportive and non-exclusionary disciplinary practices, in keeping with Florida’s groundbreaking 2009 state law (3) will promote the wise use of limited public dollars to support teaching and learning practices that prepare all students for college and career success, rather than an excessive focus on narrow definitions of achievement through testing (4) will maintain the Task Force on Accountability for Exceptional Education, Special Needs, and English Language Learners as an advisory board; and (5) is free of any real or perceived conflicts of interest with regard to privatization, test publishing, or lobbying.

Thank you for taking my concerns and recommendations seriously.

Sincerely,

Reggie Fullwood, State Representative
Florida House District 15

cc:        Florida Governor Rick Scott
Democratic Speaker-designate Perry Thurston
Republican Speaker-designate Will Weatherford

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Source: myfloridahouse.gov