His resignation comes after a months-long controversy over the state’s testing regimen and errors on school grades that forced the department to change the grades for dozens of schools.
Florida has been the leader in the school reform movement since the Jeb Bush era, and critics have blasted the state's reliance on high-stakes testing like the FCAT for nearly as long. The recent problems with the exam are giving Democrats the impetus to call on Governor Rick Scott and legislative leaders to move in a direction that puts less emphasis on the FCAT, and Tampa area Congresswoman Kathy Castor is asking the federal Department of Education to intervene as well.
"We've know over time it's been problematic, but the serious failures over the past few months have caused great concern among students, parents and educators," Castor said on a conference call on Wednesday afternoon.
House Democratic Leader-designate Perry Thurston called on Scott, legislative leaders and the State Board of Education to end what he called the misuse of the exams. "The FCAT has failed students, teachers, and our state. A new state education commissioner can help Florida install a better and broader education accountability system for every school receiving taxpayer dollars that takes into account all the things students and teachers accomplish throughout the year."
The group Fund Education Now!, no fans of Robinson, are calling on Floridians to contact Scott to choose a new commissioner who "reduces the emphasis on high-stakes testing."
Miami Representative Dwight Bullard, the Democratic ranking member on the House Education Committee, said Robinson's departure should be "a clear indicator to the governor and legislative leaders that recent destructive education reform measures and continued reliance on the FCAT are harmful to the morale and productivity of students and teachers." He went on to say that "Commissioner Robinson may have started his tenure as education commissioner as a supporter of education reform but he has clearly lost confidence in the direction of Governor Scott.”
Joie Cadle, the president of the Florida School Boards Association, championed the thrust of Castor's letter. She also strongly disputed the notion that school board members across the state are opposed to accountability. "Nothing could be further from the truth," she asserted. "There's not one school board member who doesn't believe in accountability."
Governor Scott said he was sad to hear about Robinson's departure, as you can see below: