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Pam Stewart

Education Commissioner Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Dec 3, 2015
Florida Department of Education

The state's top education official has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the Department of Education announced Thursday.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will remain on the job despite the illness, agency spokeswoman Meghan Collins said in a written statement.

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Florida school districts across the state were forced Monday to halt the latest round of state standardized testing amid renewed problems with the online system used to administer the test.

The vendor hired by the state to carry out Florida's new high-stakes test blamed the technical issues on "human error" and apologized. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said that the company, American Institutes for Research, had made unapproved changes to the testing system over the weekend.

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Several school districts on Tuesday continued to suspend Florida's new standardized tests for a second day, despite assurances that the problems had been fixed.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart early in the morning asked districts to resume using the online portal that middle school and high school students must use in order to log on and take the state's annual standardized tests. Testing had been suspended a day earlier because of technological problems.

Governor Rick Scott has issued an executive order suspending at least one of the state-mandated exams students have to take, and that’s just the start of Florida’s efforts to dial back its testing requirements amid public discontent.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says students cannot skip state-required tests, and teachers and schools can be punished for refusing to administer required exams.

Stewart’s letter is a response to questions from senators as they prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Senators wanted to know if students could opt out of state-required exams and how doing so might affect their progress in school.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Sondra Hulette and her granddaughter joined dozens of anti-Common Core protestors as they circled a fountain outside the Orange County school district offices last month.

Inside the building, the State Board of Education was about to rename Common Core as "The Florida Standards." But outside, Hulette and others chanted "Stop Common Core!" "Keep education local!" and "Follow the money!"

Common Core are math and language arts standards adopted by Florida and 44 other states. They outline what students should know at the end of each grade.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

The conversation about Common Core standards hit a fever pitch in Florida last week.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Lory Baxley said she drove two hours to discuss her complaints about Common Core standards after checking out her son’s math assignments.

Baxley’s son earned top scores on the FCAT, but now he’s worried if he’ll pass fourth grade. She blamed Common Core.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Pam Stewart twice stepped in to replace departing Florida education commissioners. Today she got the job long-term.

The State Board of Education unanimously chose Stewart to be the state's education commissioner. She follows Tony Bennett, who resigned from the post last month.

Congressman Alan Grayson is back in the news. The rather verbose Democratic Congressman from the Orlando area came to national fame a few years back, when he describe the Republican health care plan as "if you do get sick, die quickly." 

Pam Stewart Named Interim Education Commissioner

Aug 2, 2013

Pam Stewart, who began teaching in Hillsborough County, had been chancellor of public schools and was interim commissioner last year before the board appointed her immediate predecessor, Tony Bennett. Bennett stepped down Thursday amid a furor over emails suggesting he bumped up the grade of a charter school run by a major Republican donor while he was Indiana's elected schools chief. He has denied any impropriety and claims the leaking of the emails was politically motivated.