Gov. Brown again takes aim at testing overload in schools

Governor Brown took aim at excessive testing in the schools – an ongoing theme of his governorship – and warned lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington not to burden teachers with more demands than they are already experiencing in forceful remarks at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles over the weekend.

Students, Brown said, already have “tests coming out their ears.”

“California is recognizing that the genius of each child is not how they bubble in an A, B, C and D,” he said, to the cheers of the crowd, in contrast to the heckling he received from anti-fracking activists toward the end of his 12-minute speech. As he did in his State of the State speech in January, he paraphrased William Butler Yeats by declaring that “education is not filling a pail, it is lighting a fire in the soul and spirit of every child.”

His remarks came a day after what amounted to a major victory for California when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that he would not fine the state for refusing to administer the California Standardized Tests for one last time this spring as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Law.  Instead, California had opted to administer field tests this spring of the Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math based on new Common Core standards adopted by 45 states, including California. Just last September, Duncan had threatened to withhold millions – and possibly billions – of dollars in federal Title I funds for poor children if California went ahead with its plan.

“No one wants to over-test, but if you are going to support all students’ achievement, you need to know how all students are doing,” Duncan argued then.

The California Legislature refused to back down – and Brown savored the outcome of the battle. “We have people in Washington telling us what tests to take,” he said. “California was the only state to stand up and say no, we are not  doing these tests this year” – or at least the annual multiple-choice tests students have taken for each of the past 15 years.

He then turned to teachers, who for much of the last decade have been held by many national reformers to be almost solely responsible for the achievement gap that has endured for decades between black and Latino students on the one hand and white and Asian students on the other. Brown has also been backed by the California Teachers Association, which was strongly represented in the audience in Los Angeles.

“I want everyone in Washington and Sacramento to remember we are here to help the teacher, not add new burdens or some obstacle course that makes his or her job all that more difficult,” he said.

Brown was biting in his criticism of California’s massive and much maligned education code, which he said had grown to 10 volumes based on “thousands and thousands of laws,” as well as multiple state and federal agencies, all of which add to the regulatory burden that teachers labor under. “At the end of the day, when you shut the door, it’s only the  teacher. That is where we make the difference – the teachers of California.”

Here are Gov. Brown’s complete remarks on education in his Saturday speech:

Schools and education in many ways get to be a political football. We have all sorts of people wanting to jump into the act. We have people in Washington telling us what tests to take. California was the only state to stand up and say no, we are not doing these tests this year.

It is not that kids don’t have enough tests. They have tests coming out of their ears. California is  pioneering the Common Core. To do that, teachers need preparation. The tests need to be piloted. A lot of work has to go on.  We are preparing for that, we have been preparing for several years. Most important, California is recognizing that the genius of each child is not how they bubble in an A, B, C and D. Education is not filling a pail, it is lighting a fire in the soul and spirit of every child.

Over the years, California has developed an education code of 10 volumes, thousands and thousands of laws. We have people in Washington. We have a Department of Education, the Legislature, the State Board of Education, (State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom) Torlakson. We have all these people, but at the end of the day, when you shut the door, it’s only the  teacher. That is where we make the difference – the teachers of California.

I want everyone in Washington and Sacramento to remember we are here to help the teacher, not add new burdens or some obstacle course that makes his or her job all that more difficult.

Filed under: State Education Policy, Testing and Accountability


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25 Responses to “Gov. Brown again takes aim at testing overload in schools”

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  1. Floyd Thursby on Mar 15, 2014 at 3:20 am03/15/2014 3:20 am

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    So Don, what do you believe the SAT Test results demonstrate? I’m curious.

    I believe most whites believe it’s primarily wealth and genetics, as many just kind of hope their child is the “academic type”. Triple Package groups believe they control it and kids can sacrifice and work to one level beyond their ability, maybe two. What do you believe? Do you believe the SAT just measures poverty/privelege and genetics? Or do you think it measures moral decision-making at least to some degree?

  2. Don on Mar 13, 2014 at 9:21 am03/13/2014 9:21 am

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    Floyd, you said:

    “I agree the SAT isn’t perfect, but it is the closest thing to a morally neutral measure of human goodness that exists”

    I’m not getting that. Are you saying that if you don’t do well on the SAT you aren’t morally good?

    It’s an academic test. It isn’t assigning a numerical value to the quality of one’s humanity.


    • Floyd Thursby on Mar 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm03/14/2014 3:49 pm

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      No, not morally. It doesn’t measure how much you help others and how little you hurt others, etc.

      However most parents tell their kids to do their homework, read, so it does test honesty. Kids who lie to their parents then play a game on their phone or watch a show will be shown to be dishonest in their SAT score.

      It is the result of the cumulative decisions children, parents and a family make over 18 years. Diabetics all have a blood sugar between 90 and 130 some of the time, but if you average that, you will avoid blindness and other complications. There are tests which show your average blood sugar over a year. An SAT isn’t one class or one year, it’s a judgement of your entire childhood.

      It shows if you read a lot or just play games and watch TV. It reflects whether you go to the library and check out and read books or just goof off all Summer. It reflects how much attention you pay in every class, how many hours you study, etc. If you study weekends, you’ll do better. If you say weekends are only for play, you do worse. Every group that does better on it does better in grades and earns more as adults. Asians in particular, but others as well.

      It is assessing a numerical value to your intellectual humanity. If your parents do flash cards with you before starting kindergarten, you’ll do better. If you study vocabulary books and buy SAT Prep books and vocabulary books, you’ll do better. If you do drugs, watch TV, and rebel against teaching and parents who try to teach you, you’ll do worse.

      It’s almost like a God, it’s watching you. I’m atheist, but the concept of a God is what I mean. You can tell your parents you studied hard and go off and watch a show. You may even get an A because you’re likeable or cheat. But you can’t cheat the SAT. It’s asking those questions. Are your parents preparing you for kindergarten (only 16% of white kids start kindergarten able to read, vs. 60% of Asian kids, in California, which is a huge plus on the SAT)? Are you listening? Do you do homework every day? Do you explore intellectually and try to learn new things? Do you look up words you don’t know? Or do you just figure, who cares, and go get stoned with friends and watch a dumb show? The SAT Test is watching and your score will reflect your moral decisions.

      Kids constantly have a moral decision, study or goof off. So in that test, it is a judge of morality. Do you have family pride, show respect for people who try to help you, take pride in yourself?

      There’s also an IQ factor, admittedly so, but when 8.7% of whites qualify for UC vs. 33.5% of Asians, I think you can clearly say that genetics are equal and at least 24.8% of whites could have qualified for the UC System had they been morally equal to Asians on average. Probably more as a lot of Asians goof off too, but maybe 16.5% of Asians had the IQ but lacked the morals to get into the UC System, and 41.3% of whites had the IQ but lacked the morals to get into the UC System, morals meaning honesty, work ethic, and sacrifice, basic moral decisions like do I study all day Saturday for that test or do I lie, say I don’t need to, and hang out with friends. That’s what the SAT is judging.

      • Don on Mar 14, 2014 at 7:35 pm03/14/2014 7:35 pm

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        Far out!

  3. Don on Mar 13, 2014 at 9:18 am03/13/2014 9:18 am

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    fLOYD”I agree the SAT isn’t perfect, but it is the closest thing to a morally neutral measure of human goodness that exists”

  4. phyllis Mandela greenleaf on Mar 12, 2014 at 6:24 pm03/12/2014 6:24 pm

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    • Floyd Thursby on Mar 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm03/14/2014 4:01 pm

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      Phyllis, the stakes are already high, we just hide it by pretending they’re not. All the groups who do best on the SAT do the best in life, not only in income but in happiness. Asians do the best and also graduate from college more, get better grades, are happier and have lower suicide rates and far lower crime rates.

      Before testing we just pretended everyone was equal. Now we know black kids in 12th grade have the same reading scores as whites in 8th and Asians in 7th. We at least know the problem now. We need a solution. More tutors, more one-one-one time, more flashcards when young, more services, more parental involvement. Geoffrey Canada has a solution. We are making progress only because now we have the knowledge. Many are still resisting change, but we are on the right path now.

      The Vergara lawsuit and Davis initiative could never have happened without the new testing, and these are both great steps forward.

      We used to have parents of functionally illiterate teens acting proud at high school graduations, that’s my boy, that’s my girl, taking pictures. Your child spent 13 years with more free time than they’ll ever have again and a great opportunity, sitting next to Asian kids who will make six figures and have great lives, and they’re starting junior college needing bonehead English and Math, probably will drop out, and make mediocre income. You have nothing to be proud of if your child is functionally illiterate destined to low income while classmates with the same opportunity, teachers and libraries are off to a good life, as a parent, you should be ashamed and change. Anyone associated with that needs change, the teaching profession, LIFO, parenting, study habits, services.

      Before testing, we just pretended like it was all equal and said income was unequal due to racism. Income is a direct result of the achievement gap. If we fix one, we fix the other. If cociety is racist, it’s equally racist to Nigerians and Persians and Cubans and Dravidian Indians, all of whom thrive. Fix the achievement gap and you’ll fix the income gap and end poverty. We need testing to shine a light on this horrible problem.

      Sheesh, anyone tries to do anything positive and you come up with a lame conspiracy theory. Like the people saying Vergara is backed by wealthy people. Sorry, poor people can’t afford multimillion dollar lawsuits, we’re lucky a few rich people care about the poor enough to fund Students Matter.

  5. Deborah Blair Porter on Mar 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm03/12/2014 2:55 pm

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    With all due respect Gary, I think it is “too simple,” as it is simply too subjective a proposition and would be problematic considering teachers vary considerably in their education, training, years on the job and overall expertise. One teacher may say a student is doing fine, while another, with more training and experience in the field, will see a student’s lack of progress based in causes which require further examination and interventions or tweaking a less-skilled teacher may not. I’ve seen far too many situations where teachers said a student was doing “just fine” while the student languished in the classroom for years because teachers didn’t realize how a language-based learning problem or disability presented or that the student’s failure/refusal to do work was a function of lack of accommodation and intervention, not laziness or lack of motivation.

    I second Paul’s point regarding college kids needing remediation and appreciate Michael’s example of how his students have no problem with multiple assessments as they don’t want to be graded based on one exam only. Out of the mouths of babes!

    What Governor Brown seems to overlook is that if students were all doing well, there wouldn’t be an outcry for assessment to determine student progress (or lack thereof) or how teachers are doing in educating our kids. Nor would the federal government feel the need to scrutinize California’s data, as well as its practices in ensuring progress for California’s kids. But students are not doing well as we hope, nor have they been for some time, and I am not even talking about the performance of particular subgroups.

    Actually, it is rather disingenuous for the Governor to criticize federal involvement considering that California’s own Public Schools Accountability Act, which the state often proudly proclaims predated NCLB, requires assessment for accountability purposes. It also seems disingenuous to believe that such systems of assessment should not be viewed in determining whether or how teachers factor into student progress, or lack of progress, given that students are with teachers a significant amount of time each day, and their role in student progress is undeniable. Also, since 78-80% of district budgets go to teacher salaries, it is right and fair to ask what role teachers play in that performance, particularly when we are talking about the expenditure of “scarce” public resources.

    Frankly, I think Governor Brown does teachers a disservice and speaks against their interests by seeming to pander to them politically, using the testing issue and the “intrusion” of the federal government in California’s education system as a diversion, at the same time failing to acknowledge that there really is a problem with teacher quality that needs to be addressed, as California’s teacher associations and commissions recognize and want addressed as much as anyone.

    It is also a bit much when our elected officials beat their chests about federal intrusion at the same time they annually stretch their hands out to Washington, insisting the feds “fully fund” this or that so-called “unfunded mandate,” particularly when education is a state obligation and when the expectation of proficiency under NCLB is generally the same under the PSAA, which as noted above, California proudly proclaims predates NCLB, and itself is tied to a system of assessment.

    Finally, I have to say I think the brouhaha over “excessive testing” is a little suspect when we are talking an annual assessment. This is exactly what we did in California in the ’50’s and ‘60’s with the Iowa test and we who lived here then somehow managed to survive that.


    • el on Mar 12, 2014 at 4:18 pm03/12/2014 4:18 pm

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      What Governor Brown seems to overlook is that if students were all doing well, there wouldn’t be an outcry for assessment to determine student progress (or lack thereof) or how teachers are doing in educating our kids.

      It’s worth noting that the people who make the tests also have a fairly high influence on what the scores will be, by their choice of test questions and by their decisions to remove questions that too many kids get right.

      You’re totally right: if those tests reported that all the kids were doing well, we’d probably stop spending money on them.

      It’s important to keep in mind that the bar for what we consider proficient has increased significantly from where it was when we were kids. Today, we expect these kids to know more and sooner. Many questions on the exams are designed to trip up kids rather that to straightforwardly test knowledge. What is the K-8 “normal” track today is more difficult and has more material than the gifted/elite track when I was a student in the 1980s.

      If next year, the exam results had 90% of kids as proficient or advanced, would everyone celebrate that the kids were learning and schools were doing great? I’m pretty sure instead the combined opinion would be that there was something wrong with the test.

    • Gary Ravani on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:57 pm03/13/2014 1:57 pm

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      Deborah, allow me to just refer you to a number of recent articles from various parties related to the latest “upgrade” for the SAT. In many of them it is publicly acknowledged that the SAT did a poor job of predicting college success and that the best measure was teacher assigned grades. You can find various other studies indicating the same thing over a period of time. The only denials of this came from the testing companies. That, at least for the SAT, has now changed. The other issue was the SAT could be gamed, by expensive coaching, and was little more than an indicator of parents’ SES status. According to the SAT officials, that will now all “change.” Right. Note that more than 800 colleges in the nation have stopped using the SAT or ACT as major indicators for admission.

      Please recall that the major part of federal dollars that come to the state come so as supports for IDEA (special education), which is allocated according to federal law as well and ESEA Titles (Title I in particular), which does make them federal mandates. The federal law around IDEA “requires” that it be supported at the 40% level. As far as I am aware, actual funding has never exceeded 25% which does make it an “unfunded mandate” and the largest “encroachment” (aka, unfunded mandate) in most school district budgets.

      Much of the current flurry of controversy around CCSS comes right from the conservative belief that CCSS is an over-reach of federal authority. Much of the resistance form the “left” is that the current administration in DC has “bullied” states into accepting CCSS, new assessments, and intrusions into areas like evaluation via Race to the Top. See today’s editorial in the LA Times.

      • Deborah Blair Porter on Mar 13, 2014 at 5:48 pm03/13/2014 5:48 pm

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        Gary – I don’t doubt your citations with regard to teacher assigned grades being a better measure as compared to the SAT, but that’s teacher-assigned grades for the population that takes the SAT, which isn’t all students. I would be interested in seeing studies and data where teacher-assigned grades were considered a better objective measure of student achievement or progress overall. For all the reasons I noted in my original post, I imagine it was the lack of objectivity in such grading that led to standardized assessment. Are they all 100% perfect? No. But when you have a standardized view of student performance and progress, it gives you a better handle on how students, teachers, schools are doing in meeting the goals education agencies have for our students. Also, under IDEA, goals and objectives are required to be objectively measurable, for this very reason, i.e., that far too many educators have said students were doing fine, often because they were not a problem in the classroom, when in fact they were not learning.

        You state “The federal law around IDEA “requires” that it be supported at the 40% level. As far as I am aware, actual funding has never exceeded 25% which does make it an “unfunded mandate” and the largest “encroachment” (aka, unfunded mandate) in most school district budgets.”

        I disagree and would ask that you point to where in the law it says IDEA requires that it be supported at 40%. Trust me, you will not be able to find it. There was never any requirement or “promise”, etc., as is routinely recited in the myth-making around this subject. The entire funding of the law was a guesstimate based on what it was thought it would take to educate students with disabilities, as well as the expectation that continued funding would depend on compliance. Almost forty years after the law was enacted, none of the states have ever really complied with the law, and yet funding has continued. The fact that it has been funded upwards of 25% proves it is not “unfunded” and in fact the stimulus package brought in the greatest influx of federal dollars, and it is as if it never happened. If you would like to read more about this “myth” please see which also includes a discussion of the term “encroachment” and its misuse by those who appear to be claiming that funding the education of students with disabilities somehow takes away from the education of general education students when after all, they are ALL California students and our responsibility as a state to educate. I would point out that it is the state and local education agencies who are the chief purveyor of this horrid term. Another good discussion of the “misconception” of encroachment can be found in LAO’s Primer on Special Education, here at page 15.

        Thanks for the reference to the Times editorial. I will check it out. I am aware of the “controversy” and can’t help but feel it is nothing more than people having difficulty with change when they need to switch to a new system because the old one doesn’t work. The bottom line with assessments is that people seem to ignore that assessment is supposed to help us figure out where we are so we can figure out where we need to go for purposes of forward progress toward whatever goal we’ve set. If we cannot figure that out through some form of assessment, we are stuck. Alternatively, I wonder if the “controversy” and argument against the use of assessment as a means of measure and accountability is perhaps also a function of the fact that people are afraid of the latter.

    • Floyd Thursby on Mar 14, 2014 at 3:14 pm03/14/2014 3:14 pm

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      Great point. Gary criticizes anyone who tries to change anything and he admittedly believes in LIFO, a huge problem he doesn’t even acknowledge. He would probably say if we could just eliminate poverty, but that’s not true either, our middle class isn’t doing very well in school. Only 8.7% of whites qualify for a UC now, and most are middle class. Asians are the only group thriving. Or he’d say if there were more money, but Washington DC spends over 30k a child and gets dismal results. We tried what all the critics of testing say. I was there, in the ’80s most started college needing remediation. The testing came because so many kids were graduationg barely literate due to social promotion. Then people like Gary come along and look at a horrible era as the wobegone days when all was wonderful. We need testing for students and for teachers. We need change, not rhetoric.

  6. Sandra Thorpe on Mar 12, 2014 at 11:21 am03/12/2014 11:21 am

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    As a previous professor of education at National University, I am very concerned regarding both Common Core and Smarter Balanced requirements from teachers who have had virtually no time to embrace either or incorporate them into their classrooms. Now they must teach large classes and re-learn how to deliver new strategies with little or no training. Changing with the times is absolutely necessary, but give all educators some time to understand how to incorporate online teaching and testing. It has taken me five years of watching our online students to understand how long the students need to make the transition from paper/pencil to laptops, some do it quickly, others take six months to a year.

  7. Gary Ravani on Mar 11, 2014 at 1:51 pm03/11/2014 1:51 pm

    • 000

    “No one wants to over-test, but if you are going to support all students’ achievement, you need to know how all students are doing,” Duncan argued then.

    If you want to know how a student is “doing” ask his/her teacher. That sounds just too simple to have much weight in policy discussion. Until the last couple of days.

    The SAT is being revised to make it more in alignment with CCSS, to make it less subject to the impact of coaching that gives more affluent students an advantage, to make it more valid and reliable, and to increase its market share.

    A very rear occurrence in the discussion of above has been the recognition that the SAT has never really been a good predictor of college success. In fact, of all indicators, a student’s grades and class standing are recognized as the best predictors of college success. That is, grades given by regular classroom teachers whether in Portland, Oregon, or Portland, Maine. Someone might wonder how all of those regular teachers working from coast to coast, ranks filled as they are purported to be with “bad teachers,” are much more accurate in assessing students’ academic proficiency in the subtle skills of predicting college success than the multi-billion dollar testing industry. Yes, it’s a mystery. Maybe, a few people’s assertions about the “bad teachers” are nothing more than self-serving baloney.


    • Paul Muench on Mar 11, 2014 at 10:58 pm03/11/2014 10:58 pm

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      How does this fit with so many high school graduates needing remediation in college?

      • Manuel on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:09 pm03/13/2014 1:09 pm

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        It doesn’t.

        Many high school graduates have needed remediation going back to at least the 70s (do any of you remember “Subject A” in the UCs?).

        Those students were using the SAT to demonstrate college ability.

        Why didn’t anyone ever complain about that?

        I suppose because they knew that the SAT did not show whether the student needed remediation. And nobody wanted to rock the boat.

        40 years later nothing has changed and we are still bashing teachers for the perceived need of remediation. Could it be that the expectations of college professors are different than those of high school teachers because, after all, college is considered as “higher education?”

        One more thing: back in the 70s we expected no more than 30% to go to college (12% to UCs!). Now, it has become fashionable to demand that every student be qualified to apply to UC/CSU (LAUSD, I am looking at you!). What are we doing to make that possible other than adding more standardized tests? (which, by the way, will give you a bell curve no matter what and nobody wants to deal with those on the left side of the average.)

      • Gary Ravani on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm03/13/2014 1:32 pm

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        That’s a great question, Paul. In fact, you might call it an “eternal question.” For example, when 450 of the nation’s top colleges were surveyed, 380 of them, over 80% (!) complained they had to provide “remedial” courses to their incoming students. Of course, that was in 1889 when only the most elite 3% of students attempted to attend college. Today, we have about 70% of students who try at least some college. What is considered fairly solid research found that, nationally, around 3% of university budgets go to provide “remedial” courses. It should be noted that there is not a wide spread agreement on the definition of “remedial.” In CA, research has shown the vast majority of students complete “remedial” work in the first semester of college.

        Looking at the historical record it might be worthwhile to ascertain whether or not kids really need remedial work, or are colleges misidentifying students, or are their assessments out dated, or are their criteria too narrow? Another point is high school is not necessarily designed to just prepare kids for college. HS is the “terminal year” for the education of about 65% to 70% of people in this country. HS curriculum is designed to be comprehensive, while college are looking at a more narrow range of academic skills. Of course, there’s the move to make everyone take A-G courses for graduation which does not seem fair to the 65% to 70% who are not going for a BA. In fact, it may contribute to the “drop out rate,” a shrinking, but still important measure.

    • Floyd Thursby on Mar 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm03/12/2014 4:52 pm

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      Gary, I agree the SAT isn’t perfect, but it is the closest thing to a morally neutral measure of human goodness that exists. Bill Gates got 1590, even though he’s used by some to encourage kids to drop out of college, which he did a year early.

      The problem you don’t consider is school difficulty. Asians outperform whites so much, that the new white flight according to the Wall Street Journal is from Asians. In Cupertino, a City which grew in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s from white flight from San Jose and other more heavily Latino areas (at the time) now the Wall Street Journal reports whites are leaving because their kids will have to work too hard. They actually see Asians dropping off their kids at learning centers and think that’s a bad thing, want to white flight out to punish them for it the same way whites white flighted into Cupertino before to punish San Jose for busing to integrate schools.

      Instead of studying more, many run. I even hear that in San Francisco. One white woman posted that she didn’t want her daughter to go to Lowell and Galileo was better because she could eat chocolate at Ghirardelli, but somehow felt she had a gimmick that would get her into the Ivy Leagues after rejecting a challenging high school.

      In San Francisco, for the most part the top 15% go to Lowell. So if you are the best at another school, you aren’t as good as the worst kids at Lowell. If you’re in the bottom 3d of Lowell, you’re still in the 85-90th percentile. Now the system isn’t perfect, maybe a few slip through the cracks, mess up on a test, and a few smart kids shy away from it or go private so they don’t have to work as hard, but let’s say 15 of the top 17% are at Lowell with a few imperfections in the selection process. To say a kid who is average at Lowell should be seen as behind a kid in the top 10% at Galileo or Washington would be insane. If they chose not to go, they did it to not have to work as hard, which makes them less likely to qualify for the Ivy League. I’m sure that mother won’t follow up in 4 years, but I’m sure if she did she’d change her tune and say Ivy League didn’t happen.

      Cupertino high, Fremont Union, are far more difficult than Orinda, St. Ignatious, Redwood City. I’m sure it’s the same statewide, partially because we have horrible racial segregation problems. White kids are more likely to go to a school they are a minority in in Texas or Mississippi than California. Even public school proponents like Matt Damon make an excuse and white flight to private schools. There’s a public school right in Pacific Heights and virtually no whites will go because there are blacks there and if all went, it would be 50/50, but it’s under 5% white in an almost all white neighborhood near a more diverse area. But this also means that there are bad schools and good schools.

      The SAT cuts across that. It just asks, what do you know? If you read in the Summer, it helps. If you pay attention, do homework, study vocabulary, it helps. It’s a measure of the performance, moral decisions, discipline and character of a child throughout their childhood. The average kid watches 40 hours of TV. The SAT will help you if you watch 5-10 and study more, turn off the TV, gameboy, phone, etc.

      Testing can also be a great way to differentiate between good, bad and average teachers using improvement. I remember when it started, the union said what if I have bad students, poor kids, etc. Then they came up with the value metric, but the union didn’t budge, proving they weren’t concerned about that honestly but were looking for a way to nitpick about it and find some excuse to oppose it. They solved that problem and the opponents just looked for another, didn’t budge.

  8. Michael G on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm03/11/2014 12:52 pm

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    So, Gov. Brown is proposing that teachers stop giving tests? It wasn’t completely clear. (J/K)

    The most irksome aspect of this is the implicit assumption that “lighting a fire in the soul and spirit of every child” and actually teaching stuff that will help the child be a contributing adult such as math, writing, history, and science are mutually exclusive. I have no idea where that came from.

    “Well, if we light a fire in their soul, by rubbing two books together it takes all day to get it going and there is just no time left over for tests.”

    My experience is that kids prefer frequent tests when it matters to them. I always had the same conversation at the beginning of every year. “Shall we have more tests or fewer tests?” I would ask. FEWER they would yell back. Then I would ask: “So you want your entire grade based on the final with no chance to fix it?” “Well, not really” they mumble. We eventually conclude that a quiz and test alternating every week would not pack too much into one test and not make a single score overwhelming. Hence SF’s frequent assessments.

    Maybe some teachers don’t want to be reminded that they may not always know how to help every child. And many ed schools are complicit in this with all this “light a creative fire” stuff which cannot be measured. So you can claim success in the “creative fire” area and no one can gainsay you since there is no way to know.


    • el on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm03/11/2014 2:40 pm

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      I think perhaps the difference is that tests that are given for the purpose of some faraway external entity – like state or US government – where the results are not returned until the student is no longer in that class, which has little diagnostic or remedial value to the teacher or student – are quite a bit different from a classroom test/assessment.

      • Paul Muench on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:13 pm03/11/2014 11:13 pm

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        Standardized tests serve parents. Parents can’t determine exact problems from the test results, but if parents have resources they can figure that out for themselves and take remedial action. Standardized tests also sustain the political pressure to address the achievement gap. And the sustained measured achievement gap is a primary reason for the existence of the LCFF. Was it worth the cost? That remains to be seen.

      • bstrong on Mar 16, 2014 at 1:43 pm03/16/2014 1:43 pm

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        As a parent, the state tests were because we could really see where our daughter was along the basic, proficient, advanced continuum. Getting A’s in the early grades wasn’t a good indicator for us, her CST scores made us question and we began to realize she really didn’t have a solid foundation in math. She had several years of tutoring from 6-8 grade, loved it, and got the foundation she needed. Now she is doing great in all of her advanced math courses. As a member/chair of a schoolsite council, I was always frustrated by the statement that results are not returned until the student is no longer in that class and the kids have moved on. Each year we flagged 3-4 math number sense as one of lowest areas based on the CST, while simultaneously commiserating about the fact that the results were too late to do anything about it. Three years later nothing had changed, math number sense was still our weakest area.

  9. Don on Mar 11, 2014 at 9:50 am03/11/2014 9:50 am

    • 000

    That’s a nice speech, but one less test for only one year isn’t much of a difference in the current test-heavy agenda. I do like the human interest portion in that Brown made Duncan blink. In the meantime we have a state education system to run with over 6 million students.

    SFUSD adds on several additional tests that are not state or federally mandated and no one bats an eye in this town of humanists. We have 3 CLAs (Common Learning Assessments) per year in elementary and 2 in middle and high school. Additionally, we have 3 Fountas and Pinnell tests yearly from Pre-k through 5th, though F and P isn’t administered in 4th and 5th in high performing schools.

    This is from a SFUSD news feed in 2012:

    “There’s too much testing and not enough learning, Gov. Jerry Brown said during his annual State of the State speech last week.

    Brown proposed curtailing the number of tests students have to take, an idea met with enthusiasm by teachers who long have complained about the national obsession with standardized tests.

    Yet, in San Francisco, district officials added an asterisk to that support. That’s because city schools are testing kids more than ever before. District officials don’t call them tests, though. They call them assessments. There’s a big difference, said Richard Carranza, deputy superintendent.”

    Not to the kids. But when did they ever matter?


    • Manuel on Mar 11, 2014 at 1:23 pm03/11/2014 1:23 pm

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      The day the kids start to be graded based on those “assessments,” that’s when parents are going to wake up and protect their little darlings.

      BTW, San Francisco USD is part of the C.O.R.E. group. They are not shy about talking testing up as a way of “accountability,” aka “grading the teachers.” They are “data-driven” and “outcomes-focused.” All of those words are “dog-whistles” to me.

      • CarolineSF on Mar 12, 2014 at 3:21 pm03/12/2014 3:21 pm

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        I was an SFUSD parent from 1996-2012, and maybe things have changed in the testing realm in the two years that I’ve been in the “alumni parent” category. Since I’ve followed education policy issues on a national level for many years, though, I can attest that in my time, the testing frenzy and other “reform” phenomena have had a comparatively light footprint in San Francisco’s schools. SFUSD had a couple of extremely problematic experiences with charter schools early on the “reform” timeline (in which the district’s doubts and concerns were vindicated, by the way). That may have made the district less fertile ground for “reform” policies.

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