HB 323 Compromise in Jeopardy

HB 323, the waiver bill, has been an extremely complicated and contentious bill all year. Multiple amendments have been proposed, but only one offered an acceptable compromise, the Bradley amendment, #1752s. Only this amendment specifically allows the SAT or ACT to be used as the 11th grade statewide assessment and closes the vague “such as” and “well established” loop-holes of other amendments. The Bradley amendment reduces testing, respects parents’ rights to refuse their child’s participation, and satisfies superintendents’ requests to use the SAT or ACT.

Unfortunately, this compromise is now in jeopardy.

Over the weekend, opponents have been hard at work on yet another amendment that has many of the same flaws as previous ones. Rep. Rick Ladd’s new amendment (see below) includes an alternating plan for PACE and Smarter Balanced Assessments in some grade levels; this is how he is selling it as “less testing.”

In truth PACE is more testing because it is an integrated assessment program per the DOE’s own documents. These assessments are like Unit Study tests given regularly as part of the classroom work. Students have assessments approximately every week and they must re-test until they are proficient. Parents in these pilot districts have indicated these assessments are given on an approximately weekly basis. Weekly assessments in a 30 week school year is clearly more testing, not less. Also, because PACE is integrated, parents cannot refuse their child’s participation without the child failing that subject. A parent in one of these districts told us that her 6th grade son is likely to fail the year because he did not test “proficient” on the poetry unit. It also means that students’ regular course exams are being used for accountability to the state and federal government. This is a very different structure from those used previously when assessments did not have direct impact on students’ grades or grade-level advancements.

The state DOE, Bill Duncan of the state Board of Education, and Rep. Ladd claim that PACE is voluntary, yet demand it be written into HB 323. PACE is only optional during this pilot phase when districts may choose to participate. PACE is being piloted in four NH districts currently — Rochester, Sanborn Regional, Epping, and Souhegan. It is intended to be alternated with the Smarter Balanced Assessments at different grades. This amendment is also fully consistent with the FAQ that Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of the state DOE, sent to senators. These claims are completely refuted in Things Come Apart So Easily using the state DOE’s information, the US DOE waiver letter, and state law. Also the US DOE’s waiver letter dated 3/5/15 makes it clear that NH must use a single statewide assessment. That means all NH schools will be required to implement PACE; it will be mandatory. These documents clearly show that PACE, the experimental integrated assessment program, is not intended to be optional beyond this pilot phase. If PACE is written into state law via HB 323, then it will become mandatory.

Additionally, because PACE is an integrated program, it essentially dictates curriculum and teaching schedules, not just the statewide assessment. This is in direct violation of NH RSA 193-H:5 that prohibits the state DOE from managing the day-to-day operations of public schools.

The Bradley amendment, #1752s, is a big step forward and should be supported. We appreciate the senate’s willingness to address parents’ concerns and find an acceptable resolution.

Please contact the NH senate before Wednesday, thanking them for their efforts and to urge their support of the Bradley amendment, #1752s, and reject Rep. Ladd’s latest amendment.

We will again gather outside the senate chamber on the second floor of the State House on Thursday morning at 9:15am. We want to encourage the senators in their latest efforts to support parents’ rights and local control. The session begins at 10:00am, and our bill should be early in the agenda. Please join us.

For more information, read the following articles:

Update on HB 323, the Waiver Bill
Things Come Apart So Easily
Debunking the Myths of HB 323, the NCLB Waiver Bill
HB 323 Action Alert — Save Our Kids
Press Conference on HB 323, the NCLB Waiver Bill
HB 323, The Most Important Education Bill of the Year
PACE: the Next Educational Reform from the NH DOE

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 senators@leg.state.nh.us.

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
Regina.Birdsell@leg.state.nh.us (603)271-4151

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

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