Capitol Alert: Jerry Brown 'haunted' by high school test question about a leaf

dsiders@sacbee.comDecember 16, 2013 

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgMOUNTAIN VIEW - Gov. Jerry Brown has made his displeasure with standardized school tests plain any number of times since taking office in 2011. On Monday, by way of explanation, he offered his story about a leaf.

Interviewed on stage during a conference in Mountain View, Brown recalled a "shocking" exam he took as a senior in high school. It included only one question, Brown said: "Write your impression of a green leaf."

Brown, now 75, said he "didn't know how to deal with it" and that even now, walking by a tree, he wonders, "How's my impression going? Can I feel anything?"

"Actually, this is a very powerful question that has haunted me for 50 years, but you can't put that on a standardized test," Brown said.

The Democratic governor, who tangled with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this year over California's request for a one-year reprieve from using STAR tests, said "there are important educational encounters that can't be captured in tests that are managed from headquarters, either by Arne Duncan or by somebody in Sacramento."

Brown was being interviewed on stage at the Computer History Museum by James Bennet, editor in chief of The Atlantic magazine. After Brown objected to national testing standards as a form of "national control," Bennet asked about preparing students to compete in a global economy.

"Do you think students are in the global economy?" Brown said. "No, they're in the classroom."

When Bennet suggested students eventually would be in the global economy, Brown objected again.

"No, they're not," he said. "They're going to be in a job somewhere. We're not in the global economy. I hate to disillusion you. We're just here, in this hallway, with a bunch of people looking at us."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual host breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

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