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School Officials Say Fla. Education Chief's Resignation Triggered by Year-Long FCAT Drama

Update 6:18 pm: The State Board of Education will meet Thursday morning to figure out how to move forward in the wake of the Resignation of State Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson. The Board will meet via teleconference at 7 am.


Gerard Robinson’s decision to step down at the end of August comes after a series of changes to the state FCAT test which led to a drop in scores, school grades and a public outcry.

Robinson struggled to explain changes to the FCAT which resulted in lower grades for students and schools. The Commissioner embarked on a statewide tour to explain why the Department of Education was making the test harder.  But that effort began more than a third of students who took the writing test failed it in May.  Public school advocates like the Florida Education Association say Robinson didn’t do enough to reach out to groups that didn’t agree with him or his policies

“He basically defended the Department of Education and the approach they were taking and ignored the very real concerns that parents and teachers and administrators had,” said Florida Education Association Spokesman Mark Pudlow.

Fallout over the FCAT continued with the release of grades for elementary and middle schools which were lower due to the harder test. But shortly after issuing the grades, the state came back and revised scores for more than 200 schools. That led some local superintendents like Leon County’s Jackie Pons to openly question what the state was doing:

“We’ve changed these things so quickly and in such a hurry that now we’re making mistakes and I think the test itself is starting to lose credibility.”   

Over the course of the year, Local school boards have signed petitions ranging from complete opposition to the FCAT, to changes in the way it’s used. Even Governor Rick Scott recently suggested that the state may be testing too much. But after Robinson announced he was stepping down, the Governor defended Robinson’s time at the helm of the state’s Education Department.

“I’m sad, I think he did a good job, I think he cared about the students, its unfortunate,” Scott said Wednesday.

Robinson is set to leave his post at the end of August. The Commissioner says he wants to spend more time with his family who he’s been living apart from for the last year. Before coming to Florida Robinson was Virginia’s education chief. He was also endorsed by former Governor Jeb Bush and school choice advocates issued statements of support for Robinson’s job performance.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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