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Rhee and Robinson Hit the Road to Sell Scott's Educational Vision

Rick Scott and Gerard Robinson
BRADENTON -- If it seems like the walls are moving in on the way our schools are being run, its because they are. As each county district attempts to reign in the fluff and cut out the rust, Tallahassee gets to see it's new Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson in full swing Friday in Ft Lauderdale, where he and controversial former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee (a former Scott advisor) will headline a forum on student achievement.

The education-focused forum is sponsored by Hispanic CREO (Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options). The pro-voucher group invited both guests to speak about their experience in the field of strategies that enhanced and expanded school options.

Robinson, straight from his desk as Virginia's Secretary of Education to his seat as Florida's Education Commissioner, is said to be a leader in education reform and innovation, with experience holding educational positions in school districts across the country -- Los Angeles, New Jersey, Milwaukee then to Virginia. He has already gathered criticism for having too little experience in the classroom. One year teaching 5th graders and two years teaching college courses.
Michelle Rhee

Rhee, who is also faulted for her limited classroom experience (three years in Baltimore) was quickly hailed as the face of reform when she turned around D.C. test scores. After another brief stint, she left to chase bigger things, advising Scott and founding Students First. However, her legacy has been called into question, as her controversial high-pressure methods were revealed and the validity of her "results" called into question after gross irregularities in tests suggested that they may have been altered after students turned them in. She's gone from the cover of Newsweek and Time to an investigation by the U.S Department of Education.

Soon after Robinson's appointment, Rick Scott announced, "leadership as an experienced education reformer and advocate for school choice and closing the achievement gap is exactly what Florida needs to reach the next level of education reforms that will benefit both our students and the business of our state." There is still a question in the air about when Robinson knew he was picked, when and what Scott said when he called state board member Akshay Desai, the day before the vote, and why Robinson was already in Tallahassee when the vote (that only took 10 minutes to confirm Robinson to the position) was over, as reported by Gradebook.

Robinson's first outing, pumping the public full of school choice, will most likely not be his last. Much of what he learned as a senior research associate for the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas, will be reflected in what he has to show Florida. Whether the current turbulence in Florida's schools can muster what Robinson has in store is yet to be seen. Taking a comb to the tangled process in which he was appointed, might shine some light. If the proof is in the pudding, all Floridians might want to keep an eye on what's for lunch.


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