Golly, isn't this a bit premature? I mean, Mike Petrilli said we shouldn't rush to judgement: after all, Bennett is Mike's friend! Isn't that enough proof for anyone that Bennett is a straight-shooter? Plus, Rick Hess vouched for him! What more do you people need?!
BULL. Bennett's own staff told him Christel House's "C" came because of bad performance on the state Algebra test. Worse, the system was already rigged to give "combined" grade-level schools - which are mostly charters - an unfair advantage. No surprise: as Matt DiCarlo reported last year, the Indiana A-F school grading system, Bennett's crowning achievement, gives a big advantage to affluent schools over schools that serve poor kids.
This scandal is certainly an indictment of Bennett's personal integrity; he really had no choice but to resign. But make no mistake: Bennett's transgressions are the inevitable outcome of the ideologically-based "reforms" that he and his fellow "Chiefs For Change" are foisting on school systems across America.
Leave aside Bennett's lack of personal ethics; look at the damage he has already done in Florida:
You can't have a fair, transparent, and informative system of evaluation for schools if it can be changed on the whims of one man (yes, one: the board is clearly a rubber-stamping operation). In a way, what Bennett did in Florida is worse than what he did in Indiana: he gamed the entire system, not just the results for a few schools, to keep parents and teachers from rising up in open revolt against Scott. His decision was purely political; it had nothing to do with improving education.
This may be the most dangerous legacy of Jeb! Bush's "Chiefs For Change": they have moved to consolidate power over districts and schools within their own state-level offices, usurping local control, empowering privatizers, and politicizing school policy in the process.
- Chris Cerf (NJ) now leads a secretive DOE - hellbent on usurping local control and depriving urban schools of resources - that approves charter schools based on political and personal connections, punishes other charters for taking special education students, and is implementing an illogical and innumerate teacher evaluation system with minimal input from educators.
- Stephen Bowen (ME) pushes dubious "virtual learning" schools as money pours in from the industry; implements a school grading system, like Cerf and Bennett, that punishes schools serving poor children; and operates with such little transparency that he is in an open war with state senators.
- Hanna Skandera (NM) flouts state law regarding her own qualifications, arrogantly bestowing titles upon herself she hasn't earned, even as her department makes careless mistakes she'd never accept from local districts. [Adding: And let's not forget Skandera's dubious attempts to bring "virtual" schooling into New Mexico, or her coziness with corporate donors to Jeb! Bush's foundation.]
- Janet Baressi (OK) tries to sell her A-F school evaluation system (similar to Bennett's) by falsely claiming support for it where there is none; refused to step up and help school districts suffering from natural disasters until she was publicly embarrassed; and attempted to blame local school districts for problems that were clearly of her own making.
- Deborah Gist (RI) has alienated the teachers and the students of her state, misusing tests for graduation requirements when they are clearly inadequate for that purpose.
- Kevin Huffman (TN) has lost support from Tennessee's parents and teachers; created a radical new compensation system at the behest of wealthy funders that slashes teacher pay; and snatches control from local school boards to install favored charter schools.
- John White (LA)... man, I don't even know where to start with this guy...
The common threads for the "Chiefs": autocracy, secrecy, usurpation of local control, a culture of punishment, excuse-making for inadequate school funding, and unaccountability. Tony Bennett may be the personification of their "values," but every one of them, in his or her own way, is carrying out Bennett's program in their respective states.
I can think of no more dangerous group for the future of American public education than Jeb! Bush's "Chiefs For Change." May they all quickly go the way of Tony Bennett; our students will be far better off the moment they do.
One down, seven to go...
I'm running out of "Chiefs"!
ADDING: One more thing:
I like Joy Resmovits, the reporter who wrote this story; she's knowledgable and usually fair, which makes her stand head and shoulders above most "journalists" writing about education. But in the bottom graphs of her piece, she gets reactions to the Bennett resignation from three education "experts":
Seriously? Hess at least taught a few years and has a degree in education. Smarick has no background or degrees in education; Petrilli I think worked at a summer camp. Is there no one who actually works in a school, Joy, that you could add to your Rolodex for occasions like this?
Further: both Petrilli and Hess provided platforms for Bennett to make his excuses (see links above). Both said outright they consider Bennett a friend. And Smarick's reformy credentials are well known.
Come on, Joy: I know you can do better than this. A little balance is all I ask.