HB 323 is a very critical bill as it is tied to the No Child Left Behind waiver. This waiver is the agreement that the state Department of Education made with the US DOE so the state can have flexibility to depart from some of the more punitive aspects of NCLB’s mandates. It also commits New Hampshire to contractual agreements with the feds for the next three to four years. This waiver commits local school districts to state and federal mandates, such as the adoption of College and Career Readiness Standards (another name for Common Core) and the aligned assessments.
The New Hampshire senate will vote on it Thursday, May 14th. As the date approaches supporters are kicking into high gear with several myths and “the sky is falling” arguments to push through this bill. The evidence does not support their positions.
MYTH #1: Supporters of HB 323 claim that the bill is necessary to administer the SAT exam to 11th graders in place of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
FACT: The state Department of Education may already select the SAT exam in place of the current statewide assessment; the change to state law is not needed. Smarter Balanced Assessments are in current use across the state, yet are not written in statute (RSA 193-C). The NECAP assessments were never in state statute either. The specific assessment does not need to be enshrined in law in order to fulfill state law or the NCLB waiver.
NH needs to be ready for the challenges coming. The SAT test will be brand new in 2016. College counselors have mixed reviews and advice to prospective college students. We can’t tie our hands by placing in law what we must use. It is time parents, teachers, and local districts worked together to find the solutions that work.
MYTH #2: Many superintendents and local districts believe that federal funding is jeopardized if participation levels in the statewide assessment are less than 95%.
FACT: States that have an existing No Child Left Behind waiver, such as New Hampshire, are only subject to reporting requirements, not sanctions for failing to meet participation goals. To date, not a single state or school has been penalized or lost any Title 1 funding for failing to test 95% of their students.
MYTH #3: Supporters of HB 323 have stated that Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) requires less testing.
FACT: PACE is an integrated assessment program. Instead of being administered once annually, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment, it is part of the on-going classroom experience integrated into the day-to-day operations of the school. According to parents in the PACE pilot districts, the experimental program includes weekly assessments which means approximately 30 tests every academic year in K-12, not just grades 3-8 and 11. Students are also given multiple opportunities to retake the assessments until they pass while proficient students do “busy work.” Due to the integrated nature of the PACE program, parents will not have the ability to refuse these assessments. This is not less testing; it is more.
MYTH #4: Supporters of HB 323 argue that Common Core is already voluntary; only the assessment is required.
FACT: The bill refers to “readiness standards” that are the College and Career Readiness Standards, aka Common Core. HB 323 would further enshrine Common Core in NH law. The NH legislature already approved a bill, SB 101, that would have clearly made Common Core optional, although it was vetoed by the Governor.
There is no reason to specify a particular assessment in NH law. Local control and parents’ rights should not be compromised to chase federal dollars. Excessive testing must end; testing is not teaching. Our children’s education should not be based on education reform experiments. New Hampshire’s children deserve better.
Please ask the senators to ITL HB 323 and send a message to education administration. Let the teachers teach, the children learn. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
Senators usually meet with the other members of their party on Wednesday afternoons, so they should be contacted either Monday or Tuesday for maximum impact. Brief phone calls and emails are effective, especially if the message is personalized.
Please join us outside the senate chamber just prior to their vote on Thursday, May 14th starting at 9:15am. Signs may be held in the hallway, but not brought into the gallery.
To find your NH senator, and his or her contact information, refer to the senate’s roster page, or you can email all of them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to two or three friends about this issue and ask them to do the same! Focus on senators with asterisks.
For more information, read HB 323, the Most Important Education Bill of the Year and Press Conference on HB 323, the NCLB Waiver Bill.
Jeff Woodburn — District 1, Dalton
* Jeanie Forrester — District 2, Meredith
** Jeb Bradley — District 3, Wolfeboro
David Watters — District 4, Dover
David Pierce — District 5, Lebanon
Sam Cataldo — District 6, Farmington
Andrew Hosmer — District 7, Laconia
* Gerald Little — District 8, Weare
Andy Sanborn — District 9, Bedford
Molly Kelly — District 10, Keene
Gary Daniels — District 11, Milford
Kevin Avard — District 12, Nashua
Bette Lasky — District 13, Nashua
** Sharon Carson — District 14, Londonderry
Dan Feltes — District 15, Concord
* David Boutin — District 16, Hooksett/Manchester
* John Reagan — District 17, Deerfield
Donna Soucy — District 18, Manchester
Regina Birdsell — District 19, Hampstead/Windham/Derry
Lou D’Allesandro — District 20, Manchester
Martha Fuller Clark — District 21, Portsmouth
** Chuck Morse — District 22, Salem
** Russell Prescott — District 23, Kingston
* Nancy Stiles — District 24, Hampton