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CA Schools Chief Says He Welcomes Federal Reforms

— State Schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell says the federal Race To The Top program will give California the extra push it needs to reform its own education system. He made those remarks in his State of Education address on Friday in Sacramento.

O'Connell says he's proud California lawmakers recently changed a series of education laws so the Golden State can compete in the federal Race To The Top program.

He says California's education system is too top-down in its approach and it often places the needs of adults over the needs of children.

“To me the Race To The Top is much more than just an application, or a piece of legislation, or a competition,” O’Connell said. “It's a historic opportunity to make systemic changes that could fundamentally improve our educational system.”

O'Connell admits the way in which teachers and principals are evaluated doesn't work. He also says federal education reforms could help change how that’s done. California schools can now use student test scores in teacher evaluations. O'Connell says test scores should not be the only way people are evaluated -- but it is a key measure.

“I don't think anyone of us can stand here today and say we know exactly what the right evaluation system should look like. But it is evident that the current evaluation system provides too little value and it really is time for a change.”

O'Connell wants teachers unions and school officials to develop a fair evaluation system. San Diego Unified's former school superintendent Terry Grier supported using test scores in evaluations -- but a majority of San Diego school board trustees disagreed.

This was the final state of education address for the termed-out superintendent. O'Connell says students have posted big gains since he began seven years ago. More high school seniors are passing the state's high school exit exam. And there are more career technical education classes than ever before.

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