Responding to Critics

Our article on New Hampshire’s missing Smarter Balanced Assessment scores is causing quite a stir among parents, school boards, and legislators. Some who support the state Department of Education claim that our assertions are false and unsubstantiated. We will address those critics with information taken directly from the NH DOE’s website.

In yesterday’s article, we stated the following:
Teacher evaluations are partially based on these assessment results. Students’ admission into special academic programs can be effected.”

Unlike our opposition, we do our research and provide citations. These are the sources used in the article.

Students’ placement in courses can be impacted by these assessments per the NH DOE’s technical advisory dated January 13, 2015.
“Decisions regarding placements, grade retention and/or teacher evaluations in regards to the statewide assessment or any other assessment required by the school or school district are made at the local level.”

Teachers’ evaluations are partially based on the students’ assessment results. (See page 7.)
“When fully implemented, New Hampshire’s new assessment system will serve as a foundation for strong teacher, school and student accountability systems that will allow the state to realize its new Theory of Action. The accountability system will meet federal requirements and also help promote and incentivize continued improvement of instruction and assessment. The accountability system will be designed with the goal of moving away from branding schools through a negative and unproductive process, and moving toward a process of promoting improvement and innovation. It will move beyond a pure status model to one that includes measures of growth and eventually proficiency of learning. The rich performance tasks that will be developed in performance-based assessments can help support educator evaluation systems by providing a means of documenting student learning that is attributable to an individual teachers or groups of teachers. Similarly, student performance assessment results will be a more accurate key component of school accountability in New Hampshire and will serve as a tool to differentiate and disseminate recognition and support. “

The NH Department of Education makes it explicitly clear in their ESEA Waiver Flexibility Request updated July 28, 2015 that educators (defined as classroom teachers, principals, assistant principals, librarians and guidance counselors ) will have 20% of their evaluation based on the students’ assessments. In fact, it is bolded in the text. (See page 102.)
“Also, schools will be required to base twenty percent of educator evaluation determinations on evidence from student growth.”

It’s true that the NH DOE has said that the 2015 assessment results are just to determine a baseline. However, they have also repeatedly pushed it as a critical evaluation tool for improving student learning. Governor Hassan repeated this message in her veto message of HB 603. These statements are in conflict. And, if the assessment is just a baseline, why are they bullying parents and students to take a test that doesn’t matter? Why are they allowing it to impact teachers and students?

Our legislators need to stop parroting the Department of Education’s empty claims. Do some research. Be informed.