In late May Governor Chris Sununu signed HB 1744 into law to empower families with the ability to refuse their children’s participation in statewide assessments. It was a multi-year effort and it finally crossed the finish line. It goes into effect as of July 24, 2018.
This bill had three rounds before: HB 276 (2017) that died in the Senate, as well as HB 1338 (2016) and HB 603 (2015) that were vetoed by Gov. Hassan. This year it had a new set of sponsors including Rep. Victoria Sullivan, Rep Brenda Willis, Rep. Glenn Cordelli, Rep. Kevin Verville, Rep. Lisa Freeman, Sen. John Reagan, and Sen. William Gannon to shepherd it through the legislative process. While it remained a partisan issue, the law passed the House in a voice vote and the Senate in a 14 to 10 roll call vote.
While school districts are required to administer statewide assessments, it explicitly says students are not compelled to participate. Schools may have lower participation rates but are otherwise not penalized. Schools must provide an alternative educational activity during testing time that is agreed upon by the parents or legal guardians.
This new law breaks the stranglehold on our students and teachers. It was initiated in response to increasing demand from parents to refuse their children’s participation in mandatory testing, including the statewide assessments, that are aligned with College and Career Readiness Standards (aka Common Core).
There are many reasons why parents may wish to have their children not participate in the statewide assessment. Given that these tests have no academic or diagnostic value, many families believe them to be a waste of valuable instructional time.
This law addresses documented instances of New Hampshire students being harassed and punished for non-participation. It is consistent with existing NH DOE policies, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and US Supreme Court rulings. Even the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) acknowledges that parents may refuse their children’s participation in statewide assessments. Unions also oppose using them to evaluate teachers. The federal law ESSA only recognizes refusals if state law allows them; this law does exactly that, ensuring that NH’s new refusal law is consistent with this federal statute.
This is an important school choice issue because accountability should be to parents, not politicians. This new law empowers families to direct their children’s education within the public-school system. Also diminishing the hyper-testing mechanisms of Common Core encourages educational options and variety.