Brown: Cull the herd of state testsState of State outlines education themes
Gov. Jerry Brown will call for fewer state standardized tests and attempt to redirect a potentially divisive debate over teacher evaluations in his State of the State address today to the Legislature. Without being specific, he will also call for locally driven school monitoring measures to match his call for shifting authority over spending from Sacramento to school districts, according to State School Board Executive Director Sue Burr, who gave school finance officials a preview Tuesday of education themes Brown will touch on. She elaborated in an interview with me afterward.
After being sidetracked by the budget his first year in office, Brown is pursuing some of the ambitious plans on which he campaigned two years ago. This month he called for the most sweeping change in student funding since the adoption of Proposition 98. He is proposing a $6.9 billion tax initiative that will partially benefit K-12 schools and community colleges.
Brown has criticized the test-driven accountability of the federal No Child Left Behind law and the sheer number of state assessments that students take: 15 hours by high school sophomores alone. The governor will call for reducing the number of tests in order to “restore valuable instructional time,” Burr said at the annual budget analysis by the consulting firm School Services of California.
Brown won’t call for eliminating any specific test today, Burr said, for he understands that the web of state assessments is a complicated issue: “Pull one thread and the rug falls part.” But a possible target is some high school end-of-subject exams. Many students aren’t motivated to take them, since they don’t personally count on their records. CAHSEE, the high school exit exam, may also be integrated into the new Common Core assessments: Students who achieve a minimum score will have satisfied a graduation requirement.
Last fall, in a veto message, Brown criticized SB 547, a bill by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that would have broadened the Academic Performance Index, the state’s chief accountability metric, by giving additional weight to other subjects and measures, such as the graduation rate and preparation for college or a career. While the bill “attempts to improve the API, it relies on the same quantitative and standardized paradigm at the heart of the current system,” Brown wrote.
Brown hasn’t said which qualitative factors he prefers, and he’s not likely to be specific today. He has indicated he is intrigued by the idea of school inspections that examine classroom instruction and student engagement, but he’s aware that the state cannot mandate what it won’t be willing to pay for. Schools are visited as part of accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and Brown doesn’t want to duplicate those efforts, said Burr.
Brown will consider requiring districts to adopt additional accountability factors in order to receive extra money under a weighted student formula, starting in the second year, said Burr, who is a chief adviser to the governor as well as chief executive of the State Board.
Finally, Brown is expected to say that teacher development is his highest priority, Burr said. But he wants to “shift the conversation away from the edges” – the focus on firing the worst teachers and paying the best more money – and instead concentrate on improving teaching for the vast majority in the middle. Brown has nominated Stanford University School of Education professor Linda Darling-Hammond to play a guiding role on the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing and is counting on it to reinvigorate instruction for new teachers. But he is also aware that he will have to become involved with an effort in the Legislature to rewrite the Stull Act, the 40-year-old state law on teacher evaluations.
After the speech in the Capitol, Brown will travel to Los Angeles, where his schedule includes a private meeting with teachers.
- Brown: Cull the herd of state tests : SCOE News Reader
- Gov. Brown to call for less state testing in schools | The Maddy Institute