Gov. Jerry Brown gave his State of the State speech today, giving a positive tilt to California's dark budget situation as he tried to sell voters on his proposed 2012 budget and the necessary cuts and tax increases it would require.
On the subject of education, the governor said "it is time to reduce the number of tests" and get the results to teachers and school administrators within weeks as opposed to months. He said California also needs a better qualitative system to evaluate teachers by. He said he he will be working with the State Board of Education to develop a "site visitation program" where officials will visit classrooms to observe and evaluate teachers at work.
He also called for humility and trust at the local level. Brown spoke about his proposed new funding model, which would replace spending based on categorical programs with a weighted student formula that would provide schools with more flexibility, and could provide more money for students who are disadvantaged and struggling to learn English.
Brown's 2012 proposed budget threatens about $5.2 billion in public education funding if an initiative he is trying to get on the November ballot to raise taxes is not approved by voters.
Here's an excerpt from his prepared remarks:
What most needs to be avoided is concentrating more and more decision-making at the federal or state level. For better or worse, we depend on elected school boards and the principals and the teachers they hire. To me that means, we should set broad goals and have a good accountability system, leaving the real work to those closest to the students. Yes, we should demand continuous improvement in meeting our state standards but we should not impose excessive or detailed mandates...
No system, however, works without accountability. In California we have detailed state standards and lots of tests. Unfortunately, the resulting data is not provided until after the school year is over. Even today, the ranking of schools based on tests taken in April and May of 2011 is not available. I believe it is time to reduce the number of tests and get the results to teachers, principals and superintendents in weeks, not months. With timely data, principals and superintendents can better mentor and guide teachers as well as make sound evaluations of their performance. I also believe we need a qualitative system of assessments, such as a site visitation program where each classroom is visited, observed and evaluated. I will work with the State Board of Education to develop this proposal.
The house of education is divided by powerful forces and strong emotions. My role as governor is not to choose sides but to listen, to engage and to lead. I will do that. I embrace both reform and tradition — not complacency. My hunch is that principals and teachers know the most, but I’ll take good ideas from wherever they come.