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The Common Core State Standards are right for New Hampshire kids

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letters at the boardDeborah Villiard, 4th grade teacher at Northwest Elementary, Manchester, says,

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

New Hampshire educators have seen the results of the commitment to deeper learning in their classrooms.  White Mountains Regional Superintendent Harry Fensom says,

Educators see the value in the Common Core.  It’s going to close the gap.  It’s going to reduce the need for remediation.  It’s going to make kids better prepared for college.

Whether benchmarked against previous state standards or the world’s best education performers, the new standards are seen as world class.  The widely-respected Massachusetts standards served as a benchmark for the Common Core and Massachusetts quickly adopted the new standards when complete.

In math, students get a deep understanding of fundamentals of “numeracy” and problem solving that will prepare them for Algebra in the eighth grade – and Algebra II, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus for those who seek STEM related college programs and careers.

The English standards require close reading and argumentative writing, using literature and classics in the English classroom and informational texts in courses throughout the school.  Students use reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills acquire knowledge in texts ranging from classic myths and stories from around the world to America’s founding documents, foundational American literature, and Shakespeare. (Details here)

The Common Core is a state initiative, supported by the U.S. Education Department

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers led – and continue to lead – the standards initiative.  Starting 2008, the New Hampshire Department of Education, our educators and their unions joined teachers, parents, school administrators, experts and state leaders from across the country to develop the new standards.  Coordinated by our Department of Education, over 200 New Hampshire teachers met in every region of the State to provide Common Core feedback.  One participant wrote to the department at the time, saying, “After reviewing the specific improvements that were made, I am speechless: the public draft addresses almost all of our teachers’ concerns.”  In addition, Dr. David Pook, of the Derryfield School and Granite State College, helped write the English standards, reviewing 10,000 comments from educators and others all over the country.  Development of the Common Core standards was a highly participatory process in which New Hampshire educators played a big role.

In 2009, the U.S. Education Department began requiring rigorous standards for schools receiving federal “Race to the Top” funds or waiving the requirements of No Child Left Behind.  Contrary to popular belief, the federal government did not mandate adoption of the Common Core State Standards.  Virginia, for instance, received its No Child Left Behind waiver in 2012 and continues to use its widely respected Standards of Learning.

New Hampshire’s educators, however, saw the Common Core State Standards as a clear step forward and adopted the new standards long before applying for a No Child Left Behind waiver.  The new standards are so far superior to any alternative that, if the federal requirement were removed, New Hampshire’s commitment to the Common Core would continue.

The new standards maintain New Hampshire’s tradition of local control

The standards are grade-by-grade learning goals for our students.  They do not include curricula, lesson plans or any direction about how teaching should be done.  And they do not include required reading lists.

Schools and districts all over New Hampshire have begun using the Common Core standards at their own pace and in their own ways.  No two classrooms look alike.  Many New Hampshire teachers are finding ways to draw upon existing materials to create deeper, more challenging Common Core lessons.

Our students’ personal data is protected

There is no risk to student data privacy in New Hampshire.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium agreement with the federal government stipulates that state law governs data privacy.  In addition, the Consortium will issue a “Privacy of Student Records Policy” that will affirm that member states control the data that the Consortium collects; and the Consortium will use industry best practices to ensure that data are secure.

And under New Hampshire’s strict student data privacy statute, RSA 193-E:5, student data is tightly controlled.  Among other important protections, the statute provides that,  “Under no circumstances shall personally identifiable information or the unique pupil identifier be provided to any person or entity outside of New Hampshire.”  Student level data is only seen by specified individuals at local school and district level, by the testing company scoring student performance and by a select few NH Department of Education employees charged with ensuring the accuracy of student data.  The Legislature monitors this process.  (Details here)

The costs have proven to be small

The NH Department of Education analysis has shown that the costs of implementing the new standards and the assessment are comparable to the normal cost of updating of materials and professional development, and well within the costs covered by federal training funds.

Reports back from New Hampshire teachers and districts that have implemented the standards confirm that the cost has been low.  Teachers have brought the new standards into their classrooms, with extra effort, but in the normal course of their work.  Even technology required for the assessment are not substantially greater than needed to support the school’s needs for the rest of the year.

As one school board chair said,

It’s really back to basics – real math and English learning.  We’ve been committed to the Common Core for three years now and are excited about the results we’ve seen.

Here is more detail on the cost of implementing the Common Core.

Here’s more about the Common Core debate.


2 Comments

  1. Mary Ellen Paradis Boudman says:

    Dear Bill The local school boards need to connect with this too. What does the School Board Assn. say? Sincerely MaryEllen Boudman Laconia retired from Newfound Reg. HS (former school board member in Maine)

    • Bill Duncan says:

      MaryEllen, the School Boards Association represents boards with a wide range of positions, from boards who’s primary goal is to improve classroom education in the their schools to those who’s primary goal is to limit the tax burden. And on curriculum issues, you see board members who want to hire professional educators and trust their judgment in developing the best curricula and others who want to impact curriculum themselves in detail.

      So, I don’t know where the school boards association is on this but, whatever statement it might eventually make would have to be read in this light. What’s most telling is the support from educators themselves and their associations.

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