State superintendent shares thoughts on Common Core, elimination of exit exam

50 attend San Ramon forum where Tom Torlakson spoke

State superintendent Tom Torlakson shared his vision for what the California's education system will strive for in 2016 at a recent forum in San Ramon, as well as a recap of goals achieved and lessons learned during 2015.

The elected leader of California's education system spoke to a crowd of about 50 -- mostly made up of education and municipal leaders from San Ramon, Pleasanton and other nearby areas -- at Dougherty Valley High School's performing arts hall Monday night.

In his talk and subsequent Q-and-A session, Torlakson addressed his hopes for Common Core strategies, the elimination of the state high school exit exam, an upcoming state measure to fund school construction projects and the recent lockdown of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"There's a community here that strongly supports education," he said in an interview after the forum. "They believe in excellence, and the strive for it in every way, so it makes sense that San Ramon's scores and efficiency rates are so high, double the state average in this first round of (Common Core) assessments, but I saw eager participation and a real commitment to understanding that education is the key to our future."

Torlakson discussed the Tri-Valley's place in the greater education system, praising the area's strong tech sectors and emphasising the need for math and science education, as well as the need for more career and technical education.

But he also stressed that arts and music education are also just as important as technology education and shouldn't be forgotten.

Torlakson has deep roots in the Tri-Valley. He was a classroom teacher in Contra Costa's Mount Diablo Unified School District and served on the Antioch City Council and the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors before stepping into the California State Legislature as an assemblyman and a state senator. He was elected as state superintendent in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.

"At the heart of it all is the common purpose we have, to make sure we have thriving schools," he said.

Torlakson said he's optimistic about the future Common Core has in California, particularly due to its emphasis on evidence-based reasoning. He said only 1% of California parents opted their children out of Common Core education, as opposed to up to 50% in other states -- a sign that California is acclimating well to the new testing system.

"In other states, it's become a political football," he said, saying the rollout of Common Core in California was calmer. "I call it the California way."

He addressed the elimination of the California High School Exit Examination, saying it didn't align with Common Core standards and set the bar far too low to be effective. He said he's established a committee to look at alternatives, and students will adhere to district graduation standards in the meantime.

He said he supports the elimination of a district reserve cap -- a contentious issue in Pleasanton and San Ramon -- that limits districts from being able to stock away money for rainy days. Under current law, districts can save about 6% of their operating budgets in reserves.

Local control is essential to keep the state's education system running smoothly, he said, and that includes allowing financial control over reserves.

The forum is hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association Tri-Valley chapter and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

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6 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton resident
a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Dec 23, 2015 at 9:41 am

Yes, "Local control is essential to keep the state's education system running smoothly, he [Mr. Torlakson] said, and that includes allowing financial control over reserves." Good to hear.

I would add that local control is also essential to keep the state's municipalities (i.e., cities) running smoothly--a message that Gov. Brown, and organizations like ABAG and Urban Habitat should hear.

Was driving west on I-580 from Livermore to Pleasanton, looking at all the disgusting urban sprawl (aka 'East Dublin') on what used to be rolling hillsides only a few years ago.

'Stack and pack' housing (i.e., 'homes' and/or apartments/condos as tall as 3 or more stories, with either tiny or zero lot lines) as far as the eye can see, and now Pleasanton has the same type of housing south of Bernal next to the Safeway.


4 people like this
Posted by Biased
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2015 at 11:58 am

What is a nice way of saying that Tom Torlakson is basically a puppet of the California Teachers Association?

10 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2015 at 1:37 pm

@Pleasanton Resident,

I would hardly call what you see on the East Dublin hills "urban". Maybe suburban?

Anyway, the people paying $900,000+ for those places seem to like them. A lot of tech workers don't have the time or inclination to take care of a big yard.

I have a Pleasanton house with a small yard and like it that way.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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