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Gov. Moonbeam Assails Proposed Race to the Top Rules

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from former guest blogger Lesli A. Maxwell, now resident blogger at District Dossier.


Remember a few weeks back when we told you that Jerry Brown, California's attorney general, would likely have to offer his legal opinion on whether the state's law restricts using student data to evaluate teachers -- criticized repeatedly by Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- would render the Golden State ineligible for Race to the Top Fund grants?

Well, Brown, a likely front-runner in the Democratic primary for governor next year, decided to wade into the whole matter by submitting some very interesting, highly critical comments on the proposed RttT rules. (Hat tip to Anthony Cody, an Oakland science teacher who blogs over at Teacher Magazine).

For some reason, though, Brown doesn't directly address whether he thinks California should be considered eligible. He, instead lays out, sometimes dramatically, seven quibbles, many of them philosophical, and not so subtly suggests to Duncan that "a little humility would be in order" since no less than "the impressionable minds of the children of America" are at stake.

Brown also calls the philosophy behind Duncan's RttT rules "command and control," and tells the secretary that he senses in the draft rules a "technocratic bias and an uncritical faith in the power of social science."

Wowzers! No telling if Brown's comments will sway the brain trust in Duncan's shop to rewrite any rules, but they sure make for some fun reading.

Funny how just a few weeks ago, Brown's staff didn't know anything about RttT and whether the AG would be asked to review the state's firewall law when I called them to inquire. No doubt that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's convening of a special session over this whole issue got Brown's attention.

photo credit: http://www.californiagovernors.ca.gov

1 Comment

Student data usage is not the only roadblock for California. RttT emphasizes STEM education. New York and California have agencies (Regents in NY and UCOP in CA) that insist on only hands-on science labs. This emphasis on means rather than ends stops innovation in its tracks.

I fully understand the source of these rules. Simulations were becoming popular and were threatening to destroy good science education when used as replacements for real science, as the objects of scientific investigations. The result was an overreaction by these states.

Today, we see many real science alternatives that are neither hands-on nor simulations. Yet, these are not allowed by the current rules. Among these choices are remote robotic labs, large online scientific databases, and prerecorded real experiments.

Science courses must include learning scientific thinking skills, learning to "think like a scientist." While simulations do not advance that cause, many more efficient, less expensive, and safer alternatives to the old 19th century hands-on labs do. CA and NY must amend their rules to allow 21st century alternatives, especially in this era of tighter budgets, more safety rules, and less available instructional time.

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