Brown to Push for Less Testing for California Students

As Governor Jerry Brown asks voters to pass nearly $7 billion annually in higher taxes in an attempt to balance the state budget, he has also outlined plans for less statewide testing and an expansion beyond math and English.

Despite the tax hike and education budget hits, Brown still wants to push forward with K-12 reform, urging lawmakers to eliminate earmarks for school programs and redefine state standards for education performance.

Sue Burr, executive director of the State Board of Education, confirmed that Brown will ask lawmakers to reduce the load of statewide tests students are required to take each year, writes Kevin Yamamura at the Sacramento Bee.

“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 instructional program.”

Brown is expected to ask lawmakers to “take (hours) away from testing and give it back to instruction.”

Brown has long been a critic of standardized tests, once writing, “Tests should not measure factoids as much as understanding.”

Despite these proclamations, Brown recently vetoed a new measurement system by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that, by 2014, will have greater emphasis on factors such as dropout rates, college eligibility and career preparation.

Brown said at the time:

“Adding more speedometers to a broken car won’t turn it into a high-performance machine.

“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 data stream.”

However, without a hint of bad blood, Steinberg is said to be encouraged by Burr’s recent remarks.

“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?”

A study last year by the nonprofit Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd found that almost half of the California elementary school teachers that they polled said they teach an hour or less of science each week.

“We’ve spent way too much time over the last several years narrowing our curriculum to English language arts and mathematics,” Burr 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.”