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CA Gov Brown Wants Less Testing, Broader Curriculum
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- Subject: CA Gov Brown Wants Less Testing, Broader Curriculum
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- Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2012 12:05:13 -0500
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BROWN WANTS LESS TESTING OF CALIFORNIA STUDENTS, SAYS AIDE
Sacramento Bee -- January 18, 2012
By Kevin Yamamura
Gov. Jerry Brown plans to call for less statewide testing, and expanding
lessons beyond math and English, in his annual State of the State
address today, according to his top education adviser.
The Democratic governor faces a pivotal year as he asks voters to pass
nearly $7 billion annually in higher taxes to shore up the state budget.
At the same time, he wants lawmakers to reshape K-12 education by
eliminating earmarks for school programs and redefining the state's
yardstick for education performance.
Sue Burr, executive director of the State Board of Education, told K-12
officials Tuesday that Brown will ask lawmakers to reduce the load of
statewide tests students are required to take each year. She spoke at an
annual budget workshop produced by School Services of California, which
advises districts on how to plan for the upcoming school year.
"We think there's way, way too much testing in our system right now,"
Burr said. "Just as an example, a 10th-grade student takes 15 hours'
worth of tests. So that sophomore is losing 15 hours of their
Burr said that while some testing is necessary for measuring schools,
Brown will ask lawmakers to "take (hours) away from testing and give it
back to instruction."
She did not provide specific details, she said, because Brown was
preparing to "roll these out (today) in his State of the State."
Gil Duran, the governor's press secretary, would not confirm the content
of Brown's address. He said Brown was still crafting his speech and that
only the governor knew what he would say today.
Since running for governor in 2010, Brown has criticized the current
roster of standardized tests, which he believes focus too much on
memorization. On his campaign website, he wrote, "Tests should not
measure factoids as much as understanding."
Despite his distrust of the current system, he vetoed a plan last year
by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that would have required a
new measurement system by 2014 with greater emphasis on factors such as
dropout rates, college eligibility and career preparation.
In his veto message, Brown wrote, "Adding more speedometers to a broken
car won't turn it into a high-performance machine."
The governor also expressed his apparent view that testing saps the
benefits of learning: "SB 547 nowhere mentions good character or love of
learning. It does allude to student excitement and creativity, but does
not take these qualities seriously because they can't be placed in a
Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, said he was encouraged by Burr's
remarks despite what he called his "dust-up" with the governor last year.
"How we evaluate schools determines what schools choose to teach,"
Steinberg said. "And I'm glad that the governor believes we've gone
overboard on the testing piece. If we're in agreement there, the second
piece is, what are we going to replace testing with?"
Students in grades two through 11 take the California Standardized
Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests each spring, with results released in
August. Students at all grade levels take English and math exams, while
older students also take tests on science and history.
A study last year by the nonprofit Center for the Future of Teaching and
Learning at WestEd found that 40 percent of California elementary school
teachers said they teach an hour or less of science each week. The study
concluded that elementary students lack access to "high-quality" science
education, blaming it on state and federal testing systems that focus
mostly on English and math.
Brown wants to shift the state's testing focus away from those subjects,
"We've spent way too much time over the last several years narrowing our
curriculum to English language arts and mathematics," she said. "While
those are critically important, we can't ignore history. We can't ignore
science. We can't ignore civics. We can't ignore the arts."
The governor also wants to give local officials greater control over
what gets tested in their districts, a point Brown made last year in his
Burr said Brown will also pursue changes that seek to improve all
educators, not just rewarding top performers and firing the worst. "We
think that's a wrongheaded conversation," she said of the latter
approach. "We must build the capacity of all of our teachers."