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?