We're dedicated to telling you stories about policy and public spending, and how they affect students in Florida schools. Our WUSF News reporters team up with our public media partners across Florida to bring you a more comprehensive look at learning.

To see coverage from our prior StateImpact Florida project, visit here.

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.

Florida is in the midst of implementing new, tougher academic standards to make its students more competitive. To do that, the state needs to replace the well-known FCAT exam with a new set of tests.

These new standards kick in next year, so a new test has to be found soon and the current debate is about a test known as PARRC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).

But is it the best choice?

In education circles, Tony Bennett is widely known as a hard-charging Republican reformer associated with Jeb Bush's prescriptions for fixing public schools: charter schools, private school vouchers, tying teacher pay to student test scores and grading schools on a A through F scale.

Bennett resigned from his post as Florida's education chief this morning when a controversy over the last of those things — the school grades — caught up with him.

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigned today in the fallout of a controversy over the changing of school grades in Indiana, where he served as education head before moving to Tallahassee.

"I don't think anything should distract us," Bennett said in a late morning news conference. He praised Gov. Rick Scott for his leadership and support and said he ends his tenure "with my head held very high."

Florida Department of Education

Word is that Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, who only started serving in January, is on the way out. A scandal involving grade adjustment for a particular school in Indiana where he was the former state Education Commissioner sealed his fate after it was first reported by The Associated Press.

Education Groups Come To Tony Bennett's Defense

Jul 30, 2013
Gina Jordan / StateImpact Florida

The Foundation for Florida's Future and Michael Petrilli, writing at The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, are defending Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett's decision to change Indiana's school grading formula while leading Hoosier State schools in 2012.

Courtesy of Laura Zorc

When Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Tony Bennett met with school superintendents in April, Florida’s new education standards led the questions.

House And Senate Leaders Want Florida Out Of PARCC

Jul 17, 2013

Both leaders of Florida’s legislative chambers are asking Education Commissioner Tony Bennett to withdraw from a coalition of states developing a new standardized test.

skuds / Flickr

Florida school grades will drop by no more than a single letter grade this year after the State Board of Education approved temporary changes to the school grading system.

But the issue revealed a divide among board members about the value of the state’s school grading system.

Board member Sally Bradshaw said the changes would only protect the self-esteem of adults leading school districts while ignoring students receiving a substandard education. Other board members said the school grading system needed an overhaul.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

In the next few weeks, the man in charge of kindergarten through twelfth grade education in Florida has to answer a multiple choice question: Which standardized test should the state pick to replace the FCAT?

The new test is part of Florida’s move to new, tougher education standards known as Common Core. Students will begin taking the test in 2015.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said recommending a test is the Florida Department of Education's top short-term priority.

Teachers Praise Gov. Scott In New Online Ad

Jul 11, 2013

The Republican Party of Florida is out with a new web ad featuring teachers praising Gov. Rick Scott.

Karelia Arauz / WLRN

It’s summertime and Angela Maxey, principal of Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School, is observing a classroom of 9- and 10-year-olds draw and identify different kinds of triangles.

“Remember this is fourth grade—they’ve just finished third grade, but they’re learning fourth grade curriculum,” says Maxey. “It’s all Common Core.”


Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said he will recommend changes to the state’s A through F school grading system by the end of the week.

Bennett met with school superintendents and researchers Monday to gather concerns and suggestions about the school grading system.

Superintendents said they were concerned state requirements had changed too quickly the past two years for students test scores to keep pace.

Florida Senate

Port Richey Republican Sen. John Legg has founded a charter school and is chairman of the Senate Education committee.

So people listened when Legg raised some of the first warnings about whether Florida would be ready for new English, literacy and math standards -- and the accompanying tests -- by the start of the 2014 school year. Legg recently sat down with StateImpact Florida to discuss state progress on the new standards.

Not For Publication -- Hosting StateImpact Audio

Jun 24, 2013

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Five Florida teacher training programs have landed on a list of schools dubbed "substandard," according to a new national ranking of education programs.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

The algebra problem asked the Sarasota County middle school students to figure out how much Sheldon, Amy and Howard – characters on the television show “The Big Bang Theory” – spent on tickets and popcorn while seeing “The Lord of The Rings.”

The students talked through their work in small groups around the room. A tutor helped them set up the equations.

The tutor? Mayim Bialik, who plays Amy on “The Big Bang Theory.”

emmajanehw / Flickr

A New York Times story published this week takes a look at why teachers have a tougher time improving reading performance than math performance.

In part, it’s because math lessons are more discrete. A quiz can tell you which math concepts a student is having problems with, as a teacher notes in the story.

Florida Plans Increased Scrutiny For Education Schools

May 20, 2013
John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Editor's note: This post was authored by Sarah Butrymowicz with The Hechinger Report.

Lee-Anne Spalding’s Elementary School Social Studies class at the University of Central Florida (UCF) had spread out over the room in small groups.

When Florida Governor Rick Scott signs the state budget into law on Monday, he's expected to use his veto pen on a number of items, including a proposed 3 percent tuition hike for the state's public universities and colleges. The increase could have raised as much as $50 million for the schools.