Common Core standards don’t limit what I do in the classroom – they open doors.
New Hampshire’s business, political and education leadership have committed to providing our students the 21st Century skills they need as citizens in the STEM-based economy of our state.
The Common Core sets ambitious goals for what students should learn in math and English in each grade from kindergarten through high school. The new standards are critical to that initiative and the future of our kids.
The new standards are high quality, a clear step forward for New Hampshire
The original HB 1432 came to a merciful end in the House Education Committee yesterday. It was amended out of existence when the committee accepted an amendment by Rep. Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) that replaced the original bill with a a requirement that the New Hampshire Department of Education submit a report on Smarter Balanced and other aspects of the New Hampshire assessment strategy.
Even then, however, the committee was unclear about the benefit of this particular approach to looking at the assessment issue and voted to recommend interim study for the bill by a vote of 8-7.
Rep. Murotake spins fiction, gets a letter of support from his union local, risks an open meeting violation to get a letter of support from his fellow Nashua Board of Ed members…but, in the end, there’s no version of his bill that the State could afford to pass. Rep. Murotake’s goal for HB 1432 has been shifting and unclear, but let’s just assume that his goal is for the State not to use Smarter Balanced for the next two years and that any alternative would be acceptable.
Here’s why that cannot be done.
New Hamphsire cannot postpone the test
It’s clear from the No Child Left Behind law that New Hampshire must give a test every year. (We could request a waiver, as other states have done and failed, but we don’t need to pass a law to do that.)
…cannot use the old NECAP or other states’ tests
The test must be aligned to our College and Career Ready Standards, so we could not go back to the old NECAP or use MA or NY or some other state’s test aligned to their standards. Testing students on some different standard would not make sense anyway, when our teachers and students have been working under own standards for years.
…cannot make a “Common Core aligned NECAP”
There have been suggestions that the State could go back to Measured Progress to use some left over questions and “align” them to the Common Core. First, Measured Progress is not up to the job. But even if the State had a reason not to use the Smarter Balanced test it has helped develop for years, and then found a capable contractor, and then appropriated the money to support that kind of project, there is no time for that.
First, NHDOE would have to get U.S. Department of Education to renegotiate would NCLB waiver, which specifies that Smarter Balanced is our annual assessment. Not likely. Then there’s the vetting, piloting and field testing, all of which have been organized on a 23 state basis for Smarter Balanced. Then there’s the US Department of Education’s peer review of the test. Any of these factors alone would make a new test infeasible. Taken together, New Hampshire would literally not have the time to go through a process like that process before spring of 2015.
Passing HB 1432 with any of these bad ideas would carry big costs
When New Hampshire accepts federal funds, the State agrees to follow federal law. Putting any of these ideas into state law would cost New Hampshire our NCLB waiver and risk $116 million in federal education funding that comes into the state each year.
Here is a 13 second video of Rep. David Murotake (R-Nashua) talking high-stakes:
Rep. Murotake talks about the Smarter Balanced test as if the test were inherently high-stakes (here is his full testimony). Do not be fooled: high-stakes is not about the test you use; it’s about how you use the test.
Testing as accountability – a uniquely American mistake
Using student test scores in a punitive teacher accountability system is almost the whole Obama/Duncan education reform strategy (just add charters and stir).
But as Marc Tucker says, “Test-based accountability has been tried and it has failed….in fact, no high-performing country has gotten to the top..that way.” He goes on to say, “It is doing untold damage to the profession of teaching.”
High-stakes testing for accountability has become probably the single biggest obstacle to improving American education. It is certainly the biggest obstacle to getting the new standards in place, as the unions, Fordham Institute and many others point out.
Testing and accountability will be a long-running topic at ANHPE (here, for instance) and throughout the country, but this post is not about that big picture. This is about what “high-stakes” means in the New Hampshire policy debate right now.
The short answer is: New Hampshire is a no-stakes state. School districts can do whatever they want but, as a matter of state policy and federal agreements, testing in New Hampshire is no-stakes for the next two years and almost no-stakes after that. In fact, New Hampshire uses none of the high-stakes policies salted through the evaluation systems in other states.
If you don’t agree, read on.
Kimberly Kelliher, social studies teacher and curriculum leader at Prospect Mountain High School in Alton, testifies based on her first hand Common Core experience
Kim Kelliher’s school, Prospect Mountain High School, is jointly managed as SAU#301 by Alton and Barnstead. Each town has its own K-8 elementary/middle school.
The Alton half of the partnership is ground zero for political opposition to the Common Core. The Alton school board has voted against the Common Core and Rep. Jane Cormier of Alton has proposed HB 1397 to investigate the New Hampshire Department of Education for implementing the Common Core (committee recommended ITL 14-5).
Regardless of any potential job security concerns (Rep. Cormier’s husband serves on both the Alton and the SAU#301 boards), area educators have been unambiguous in their support of the new standards based on the impact in their classrooms. Richard Kirby, 6th grade math and social studies teacher at Alton Central, the Alton school district’s only school, spoke on the value of the Common Core standards at a forum last fall, and at the September 2013 school board session that went on to vote 3-2 against the Common Core. (Rep. Cormier said recently that the board has so far identified no alternative standards.)
And now, based on her own classroom experience, high school social studies teacher and curriculum leader Kimberly Kelliher has submitted to the House Education Committee this Common Core testimony opposing all the anti-Common Core and anti-testing bills.
RE: HB 1508 (specifically) and all other bills with similar intent (HB 1239, HB 1238, HB 1432)
Dear Members of NH House Education Committee,
I am writing this email in order to provide first hand testimony in support of using common core standards and improved assessment practices in our public school systems. Not only have I been a full time teacher for almost twenty years, but I also graduated from Winnacunnet High School and received my Bachelor’s Degree from Keene State and my Master’s Degree from UNH. So, I have a lot of experience in the NH educational system, as a student and an educator. It gives me great perspective.
Open Letter Signers,
Your letter raises a number of questions.
You say that you are acting as individuals – but also as officials elected to oversee Nashua’s schools. How is that possible?
And why are you willing to do board business – make a request of NHDOE – in a letter you say your are signing as individuals but that gives the impression you are signing as board members?
Are you trying to have it both ways?
You are a board majority. If you really think that Nashua should choose its own annual test, why don’t you pass a motion saying that?
Maybe you realize that it is just not possible for each New Hampshire community to choose a different test for the annual “statewide assessment.” If so, why do you put your names on a letter making that impossible request?
And why would you enlist Fairgrounds Principal John Nelson, who reports to you as board members, in your own personal political mission? He says that he did not send his letter to the board and that you are using it in a way that is inconsistent with his intent. Did you know that? Did anyone talk with principal Nelson?
There are other errors, including the confused reference to a mythical future test, but my message is simple.
You have been misusing your board of education positions in a political fight over the Common Core. There is no viable alternative to the Smarter Balanced test, nor is there a need for one. You should rethink your position.
Political opponents of the Common Core have turned to the annual assessment to make their last stand.
The Smarter Balanced test New Hampshire has help develop is universally understood to be the best Common Core test, but attacking the test is all opponents have left.
It’s clear now that the Common Core standards themselves are a real improvement for New Hampshire students and are firmly in place. And student data privacy, never a real problem in New Hampshire, will no longer be an issue at all when a new privacy bill passes (probably) in the next two weeks.
That leaves the complex and emotional issue of testing, the battle ground where Common Core opponents apparently feel that flim-flam will work.
If Common Core opponents can get New Hampshire to postpone the Smarter Balanced test or switch to a home made substitute, they can trumpet a victory over the Common Core and live on to fight the standards another day. Simple as that. Regardless of the consequences for New Hampshire.
The lead sponsor of HB 1432, the bill that targets Common Core testing, is Rep. David Murotake (R-Nashua). He is using his position on the Nashua Board to sew confusion and bolster the political credibility of a bill that should easily be dismissed.
Here’s the story.
A group of Nashua teachers and board of education members want Nashua to replace the Smarter Balanced assessment with a different test. And HB 1432 would outlaw Smarter Balanced for two years as well as, the sponsor now says, any other test “associated with the Common Core.”
But our No Child Left Behind waiver and federal law require that:
- the State give a single statewide annual assessment to every child in grades 3 to 8 and grade 11 (in other words, Nashua doesn’t get to choose its own assessment);
- the assessment be aligned to New Hampshire’s College and Career Ready Standards which, for English and math, are the Common Core State Standards;
- the State carry out the waiver agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, an agreement that says the State will use the Smarter Balanced Assessment; and that,
- any alternative assessment New Hampshire might use, if USDE were to agree to modify the waiver at all, would be subject to a complex and time-consuming peer review and approval process.
So it is clear that, for New Hampshire, at this juncture, there is no viable assessment other than Smarter Balanced. Any move away from that would risk the State’s waiver and federal funding.
Just pretend for a moment that there were an alternative. And imagine that Rep. Murotake revived his moribund bill by allowing a Common Core test – presumably just not Smarter Balanced.