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CTA Urges End to STAR testing for 2nd Graders, Drops Proposed Sales Tax Proposition

By Jeff Hudson - March 6, 2009

The California Teachers Association – which isn't shy about aiming political messages directly at legislators or the general public when education issues are on the line – made several moves on the political chessboard in the state capitol during the last few days.

Last Friday, the CTA and State Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) announced introduction of legislation that would exempt California second-graders from the state’s annual STAR testing (Standardized Testing and Reporting) system.

Hancock said “If we are going to reduce funding to local school districts, we should reduce the bureaucratic requirements we place on them. We need to let teachers teach. Testing second-graders simply starts the ‘teaching to the test’ process too early.”

CTA president David Sanchez said “The standardized testing that our second-grade students are forced to undergo each year does not help them and it does not assist teachers in assessing their performance, development and learning needs. Eliminating these tests will free up precious instructional time that teachers need with these students and it would save millions in the face of unprecedented cuts to public school funding.”

According to California Department of Education estimates, the cost of administering and supporting second-grade STAR testing is approximately $4.5 million.

There was no immediate response from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who has been a strong proponent of the STAR testing system.

In another move, the CTA purchased radio and Internet advertising, as well as freeway billboards in San Francisco, Long Beach and Sacramento, asking the public to join in CTA-sponsored “Pink Friday” protests on March 13, objecting to teacher layoffs and school budget cuts.

The radio ads stress that “California has fallen to 47th nationally in public school funding” and terms the current cuts for education in the new state budget “the deepest education cuts in state history.”

In a separate but almost simultaneous move, the CTA quietly decided to back off on a proposed ballot proposition that would have created a new one percent sales tax to support education.

The CTA had announced plans to pursue the ballot proposition during the protracted budget negotiations during January.  Attorneys drew up and submitted the documents, and the proposed “Public School Investment and Accountability Act” was finally cleared by the Secretary of State’s office on Monday for the process of gathering signatures on petitions.

But CTA representatives told EdBrief that with a special election scheduled for May 19, featuring six budget-related initiatives that includes a sales tax increase (Propositions 1A through 1F), the CTA decided that now was not the time to press ahead with the CTA-sponsored initiative.

In an additional CTA-related development, the Sacramento Superior Court announced on Monday that there would not be mediation in the lawsuit brought by the California School Boards Association (CSBA), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and the CTA against the State Board of Education (SBE) over last summer’s decision by the SBE to mandate algebra testing for all California eighth-graders.  The case will now proceed in April.

Editor's Note: Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.