Appearance on “Education Matters” To Discuss NEO Scholarship Program and Upcoming Bill

Yesterday I was privileged to be invited to appear on “Education Matters,” a Manchester cable tv show on channel 23. Deborah Olszta, the host and director of this show, and I spoke about the bridge scholarship program available through the Network for Educational Opportunity¬†(NEO). The scholarship may be used for tuition at an out-of-district public school or a private school, or for homeschooling expenses. This scholarship is specifically designed to put educational options within reach for underprivileged K-12 students.

Businesses can receive an 85% Education Tax Credit from the State of New Hampshire against business profits tax (BPT) and/or business enterprise tax (BET). Individuals can also make donations and claim a tax deduction. It is similar to making a donation to other charities such as the Red Cross or United Way.

NEO is currently accepting scholarship applications and will continue through June 15th. Awards are based on highest financial need and most applicants are eligible for free and reduced lunch programs.

For more information about making a donation or applying for the scholarship, contact the Network for Educational Opportunity.

Deborah and I also discussed an important bill before the House Education Committee (HEC). SB 343 as amended by the Senate is a bill that would create an Oversight Committee to study of the current educational standards and the newly adopted Common Core State Standards. Sen. Sam Cataldo proposed an additional amendment that would exclude dispositional questions from the Smarter Balanced Assessments which will become mandatory in Spring 2015. Dispositions are values, attitudes, and beliefs. They are soft skills and cannot be objectively scored. This amendment is also consistent with the legislative intent of SB 48 (2013).

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s website indicates that dispositions are included on the assessments.

Smarter Balanced recognizes that college readiness encompasses a wide array of additional knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will not all be measured by the assessment system. The draft college content-readiness definition is focused on the core areas of ELA/literacy and mathematics described by the Common Core State Standards.

However, the NH Department of Education received a letter in February indicating that dispositions are not part of the assessment. Currently the only copy of this letter is available on the NH Families for Education website; the NH DOE has not published it to date. In the work session for SB 343, the NH DOE told the HEC subcommittee that this letter will be posted on their website later. The subcommittee expressed that this is sufficient for parents to be assured that dispositions will not be included on these mandatory assessments.

Unlike the SAT or other standardized tests, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is not available for review by parents. There is no way to be sure that dispositional questions are not included in the SBA.

The HEC subcommittee voted 3 to 1 against SB 343 and the new amendment. The bill will move forward to the full committee for an executive session on Tuesday, April 22nd at 10:30am. They meet in the Legislative Office Building (LOB) room 207. The House Education Committee can be reached at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. We recommend the committee accept Sen. Cataldo’s new amendment and then vote SB 343 with an Ought to Pass (OTP) recommendation. It is expected that this bill will advance to the full House next week. At that time it would be appropriate to contact your local representatives.

Again, thank you to Deborah Olzsta, for having me on the show.