The following is testimony I submitted for HB 1432, a bill that would delay implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) by two years. This testimony addresses only one area of problems with the SBA. Please read my other posts regarding student privacy, associated implementation costs, and other Common Core related posts for a more comprehensive examination of these issues.
Once the video of HB 1432’s public hearing is available, I will post it here.
Dear Honorable Members of the House Education Committee,
I regret that I am unable to attend the continued public hearing for HB 1432, the bill that would delay implementation of certain statewide assessments. Please accept this in the public record as my testimony.
My name is Michelle Levell and I represent the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance and School Choice for New Hampshire. Both organizations are very concerned about the impacts of the new state-mandated assessment, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). One group that will be greatly impacted is our special education students, which is the focus of my testimony today.
Just when New Hampshire is converting to the new assessment, one that will require computer skills in addition to testing specific academic materials and methodologies, the US Department of Education is removing the “2 percent rule.” This provision allowed states to count up to two percent of special education students as proficient although they took alternative assessments aligned to modified academic achievement standards. The removal of the rule will go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year. The combined impact of SBA and the elimination of the 2% rule will be devastating on our special education students.
Several special education experts and teachers have written extensively about the consequences of these two major shifts in required assessments. It is a “perfect storm” for our special education students.
Although the new Common Core aligned assessments are supposed to be built with universal design elements, special ed experts believe they will not be suitable for these vulnerable students.
“…built-in accommodations might not be enough for some students, who are used to assistive technologies that might not dovetail well with the consortium tests. Advocates for special needs students worry that those children’s test performance could be compromised if they’re not allowed to use the supports they’re accustomed to.”
The National Educational Association (NEA) opposes this sweeping change. Mr. John Riley, the NEA’s policy analyst was quoted as saying, “We’re talking about students with disabilities who have documented life-impacting issues, that if they could do everything else the other students were doing, they’d be doing that. We have to take an individualized look at how we’re assessing them…Students don’t fall on the normal bell curve.”
At a November 2013 conference, Ms. Jill Stine, a trainer at The Center for College and Career Readiness, told a parent that “special needs students are not being addressed or accommodated” with the Common Core State Standards. This comes from a professional who trains teachers and school administrators how to implement Common Core in their schools.
This broad-based requirement to have all children of the same grade test at the same level is unrealistic. There are numerous stories from across the country of disabled children who are forced to take assessments that are grossly inappropriate for them. The following October 2013 Washington Post article describes one Louisiana student’s struggle. He is only nine years old, a third grader, and is autistic. These personal stories are important to note because decisions in Concord impact the daily lives of our children.
I previously provided testimony to this committee regarding other problems associated with the Smarter Balanced Assessment, including those related to student privacy issues. When you take the numerous problems surrounding the SBA into consideration, including the harm to our most vulnerable students, delaying implementation of these required assessments is the responsible course of action.
Please issue an Ought to Pass (OTP) recommendation for HB 1432.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this important bill.
New Hampshire Liberty Alliance
School Choice for New Hampshire