Part of the Bay Area News Group

Do you agree with governor’s veto of bill that would have expanded school accountability system?

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, October 16th, 2011 at 2:34 pm in Education, Gov. Jerry Brown.

A Contra Costa Times editorial today highlights the fickle nature of Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent decisions to sign or veto a number of bills passed by the Legislature: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_19114750.

Here are some excepts related to children, libraries and education:

“Predictability and consistency are traits not often associated with Gov. Jerry Brown, as was once again demonstrated by his choice of which of hundreds of bills to sign or veto at the end of the past legislative session….

“The governor also vetoed another favorite union measure, Assembly Bill 101, which would have allowed at-home child-care workers to organize unions, thereby boosting the cost of child care during a weak economy….

“Brown also signed Assembly Bill 348, which makes it all but impossible for public libraries to contract out for services. As a result, some libraries will be forced to reduce hours or even close branches.

Brown surprisingly vetoed a progressive bill that would have reformed the way high school performance is measured. It would have broadened the methods beyond test scores to include graduation rates and student preparation for college and jobs.

The governor exhibited his inconsistency in vetoing a bill that would have required helmets for young skiers and snowboarders, citing concerns about transferring authority from parents to the state.

Yet he signed legislation to let children 12 and older seek medical care to prevent sexually transmitted infections without parental consent. Then he signed a bill banning minors from using tanning salons.

Brown indicated he would wield his veto aggressively but vetoed about the average percentage of bills previous governors vetoed, even though he complained about the huge number of unnecessary measures.

What the governor will do in the next session of the Legislature is anyone’s guess, but no one should expect consistency to emerge.”

Earlier this week, the Times printed an op ed piece from a reader who praised the governor’s veto of the school accountability bill referenced above: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_19114206.

Patrick Mattimore, who taught at public and parochial high schools in the Bay Area for 13 years, now teaches American law courses at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Here’s what he had to say:

“From the community
By Patrick Mattimore
Contra Costa Times
© Copyright 2011, Bay Area News Group

Gov. Jerry Brown was right to veto SB547, a bill that would have distracted Californians from the test results of students and the corresponding Academic Performance Index of the states’ schools.

Based upon each school’s student test scores, the API informs parents how well schools are performing within the state and relative to schools with similar demographics.

The proposed multiple accountability measure would have added other evaluative factors to the API test scores, such as how well schools are preparing students for college and a school’s dropout rates.

The law, championed by many of the states’ newspapers (‘Mercury News editorial: SB 547 would significantly improve California’s school accountability system,’ http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_18749990), would have diluted school accountability, replacing objective evidence of student achievement with vague subjective judgments about college preparation and, in the elementary grades, measurements of a school’s creativity.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with schools providing additional evidence to parents as to what the schools are doing, but those reports should be separate from a school’s API.

The API should not metastasize into an amorphous number that will cloud the student testing picture.

If our tests didn’t give us the information we needed to judge how well our students are learning, then we would be justified in expanding accountability measures. But that isn’t what’s happening. The sad fact is that our kids are not doing well on the tests and schools deflect responsibility by blaming the tests.

The anti-testing folks throw out language such as ‘drill and kill’ and ‘teaching to the test,’ to blunt efforts to make public schools accountable. In fact, ‘drilling’ is nothing more than practicing. Drilling is about instilling and reinforcing important information.

As to teachers ‘teaching to the test,’ that’s what they should be doing. Students are in class to learn.

Presumably, they should know certain discrete things when they finish a class lesson, an academic year and eventually graduate. The best way to facilitate that is for students and teachers to have clear expectations, goals and measurements. The best way to check whether students are meeting the goals is to test them.

It’s convenient to think students will learn without being ‘pushed’ by tests. It’s also wrong. Most of us get things done when we know we have to get things done. Tests are both a means of prodding us to work and the best way to check how well we have done our work.

While Gov. Brown made the right decision regarding SB547, he did it for the wrong reasons. In his remarks, the governor expressed his disdain for tests and data. He suggested we need a more holistic approach to assessment that would take account of students’ ‘love of learning,’ for example. Give educators divining rods and magic sorting hats and they can apparently evaluate students without tests.

Californians should reject those vague evaluation schemes and continue to insist that schools be measured with the easy-to-understand objective API.”

Yet, some people with whom I’ve spoken have said the bill could have paved the way for California to apply for a No Child Left Behind waiver, by showing a willingness in the state to expand accountability measures.

Do you agree with the governor’s decision to veto SB547?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • vindex

    As a social scientist the testing structure is a farce. No control groups, giving a score year after year for schools that serve different children every year. The public needs to understand that this testing as absolutely no validity. With that said, between the two.. The state’s version as actually BETTER than Pres. Obama’s proposal. He seeks in his “Race to the Top” requirements if you opt out of the state testing. This program bases teachers scores on these invalid tests. Talk about problems? The teachers will not be willing to teach students that struggle (which there are many) and will fight for the high scores on the scores. Pres. Obama’s plan is a disaster.

  • Just J

    Vindex, Just my opinion The system either way is messed up. They (the school diistricts) don’t teach the kids that struggle anyway. If they would get out of the one size fits all structure and just teach kids should be able to fly with the testing. California standards are very low.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s U.S. Ed. Secretary Arne Duncan’s take on efforts to overhaul ESEA: http://www.ed.gov/blog/2011/10/reforming-nclb-requires-flexibility-and-accountability/

  • vindex

    Thanks Theresa for posting the Secretary’s take. Notice how many times he says “accountable”? That is political talk for testing. I’ve already stated my case above on the problems with that. I’ve been in numerous classrooms over the past 15 years at the elementary and secondary levels observing teachers. For the most part, they are outstanding. A few that need to be removed, but for the most part outstanding. I’m afraid however that this profession is underpaid and we are not getting the cream of the crop with the new teachers. Too many hoops to jump through to be a teacher today with not enough monetary rewards to follow. Many of them do it for the “calling” aspect, but after five years realize that the “livelihood” aspect falls short. Pres. Obama does nothing to fix this with his proposals and in my opinion exacerbates the problem by introducing “competition” in the classrooms. No teacher will be willing to teach struggling students if their paycheck will be severely affected by having those children in their schools. J, I agree it is already a struggle, but if Pres. Obama gets his way, you haven’t seen anything.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Do you support the state’s decision to apply for a Race to the Top Early Learning grant?
    Details are here: http://bit.ly/o6xYli

  • vindex

    Absolutely not. If you read into the details of “Race to the Top”, it is worse than Pres. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind”. Teachers are paid based on students test scores that don’t pass the smell test. Teachers and students are being hurt by this proposal.