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Bill to obstruct adoption of new education standards in New Hampshire called costly and burdensome to schools

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HB 1239 imposes extensive new processes and reporting requirements on NHDOE and the school districts as part of the process of adopting new educational standards.

The over-all theme of the testimony opposing HB 1239 was that

  • The intention of the bills was to put up road blocks to the adoption of new standards.
  • HB 1239 would require a lot of extra work from 176 local school districts and impose an unnecessary burden.
  • That additional work would carry a much higher cost than reflected in the fiscal note but the bill does not fund that local cost.
  • Implementing new standards is a normal part of doing a school’s business and there is no additional cost of implementing the Common Core or any other new standards.
  • Although the bill’s cost is high, the analysis required would be incomplete because it does not compare the cost of implementing the new standards to the cost of operating the schools without the new standards.
  • Since on-line testing products have been widely used in New Hampshire  for many years, administrators anticipate no significant difficulty in using the Smarter Balanced test.

The Testimony

Rep. Cordelli presents his bill, HB 1239, as a simple call for open and transparent governance and better communications. But a many who gave testimony disagreed with him.

Long time disability rights advocate Bonnie Dunham set the tone, testifying that,

“This bill attempts to put up road blocks that impose burdensome hurdles that the state would have to overcome or jump over before they could implement any new state standards – which would essentially put the process as a grinding halt.

“I can’t see how that would benefit our children.

“The requirement that public hearings be held in each executive council district is burdensome because the state doesn’t even require that when it passes laws or rules.  I don’t know why we should go that far above and beyond in implementing new educational policy.  It just doesn’t seem necessary.”

Heather Gage, NHDOE Chief of Staff, went on to testify that,

“The school districts do not normally report this kind of detail to the State….so this will be an additional burden on them.

Keep in mind that this bill is not just about putting down a cost figure.  Districts will actually have to do a comprehensive analysis of what they would normally spend on a day-to-day, year-to-year operation of their schools compared to what they are having to spend because there are new educational standards and new assessments….

On the other hand, the bill as it stands right now doesn’t actually have any requirements for districts to send in that information to the State.  And so we do have a concern that without that….we worry about the validity of the report…..

12:51 Jim Granier asks if there is funding for the local districts to do this work.  Heather Gage says that he should ask the sponsor but she does not see it there.

Former representative Greg Hill says,

“The technology that’s needed in my town, where they decided that they needed to buy laptops for all of the 9th grade – along with the maintenance of it and increased bandwidth – it’s a considerable cost to my town and I think that is a downshift…..

[in response to a question] The Smarter Balanced test is one that is required to be done on-line, simultaneously – the entire school does it at the same time – and in order to do that….someone is going to have to pay to upgrade those systems.  That’s going to fall on the taxpayer.

Our school district has a warrant article this year for laptops for the entire 9th grade…

Mr. Hill is incorrect.  First, 9th graders do not take the annual assessments.  Only grades 3-8 and 11 do.  Secondly, as several others testify, there is no condition under which all students in school take the test at the same time, whether it’s the NWEA that schools have taken on-line for years, or the Smarter Balanced, which allows the test to be taken over a 12 week timeframe.

Mr. Hill then goes on to demonstrate some confusion about that 12 week time window and the option school have of using a paper version of the test for the first 3 years.

After introducing his organization, Dave Juvet, senior vice president of the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, said,

We really view this [bill as being] meant as nothing more than an obstacle to implementing the standards….

We think this bill should be killed but if, for some reason you think there is some merit to this bill, we would want to point out that there’s a significant piece that’s missing.

This bill talks about costs that may or may not be associated with the Common Core standards but if you were somehow able to get that information, that only gives you half the information that you need….This bill does not address the costs associated with current educational standards in  terms of either training or testing.  So I think that’s a major flaw with this bill.

But ultimately, I really think it is designed to slow down or stop implementation of Common Core, which we think would be a mistake for New Hampshire.

Dr, Mark Joyce, Executive Director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, testified,

We are here in opposition to this bill because we feel it’s an unnecessary piece of legislation and if it were to be decided to be a piece of legislation, it would be incomplete….

The existence of many of the items identified for study really have a long history of being present in New Hampshire education.

I would also agree with the prior testimony in regard to the cost of doing business in education in comparison to new costs….

For over 10 years, New Hampshire schools have been doing on-line assessments.  At one point, 70% of New Hampshire schools used the NWEA assessment, which was done on-line, [as an] adaptive educational assessment, very similar to those products that will be coming to New Hampshire now.

One of the misconceptions is that all students take those tests at the same time.  They do not.  They are scattered over a 6-9 week period of time, so not all students take the tests at the same time under any platform of assessment.

But, moreover, we believe that the ingredients of this bill are totally within the purview of your current statutory Committee on Accountability and Assessment in New Hampshire.  That committee has the authority to study all of these various issues.  It’s unnecessary to add a special piece of legislation to accomplish it.

[Goes on to describe the extensive public hearings for NHDOE rules just approved by JLCAR]

If this were to become law, the fiscal impact on local school districts is grossly understated here….It doesn’t at all consider the cost of developing this cost data in all 176 New Hampshire school districts.

John Freeman, Superintendent of Schools in Pittsfield, starts by saying he wants to affirm testimony I had given earlier (but had not videoed), then goes on to say,

If you know Pittsfield, you know we’re a property poor community.  And we’re also a community with one of the highest tax rates in the state of New Hampshire. So cost items are always on the front burner for us.

In Pittsfield, the use of the Common Core State Standards has not resulted in any increased cost for us.

Through our normal curriculum review cycle, we’ve used the Common Core State Standards to revise and update our curriculum.  I’m assuming that we’re not unique in that process.  We provide on-going professional development for our faculty.  So when we saw the opportunity to upgrade our standards to the Common Core State Standards, we continue to provide professional development for our faculty.

We are engaged in continuous improvement and we just really integrated this latest upgrade in standards into our normal course of standard operations.

Relative to technical costs, we also have not experienced any impact in that regard either….We, as have many school districts in New Hampshire, have been using an on-line assessment for many years.

Our elementary school, for instance, has been using the NWEA assessment.  Seventeen classrooms all using one computer lab during an open window of about three weeks in the spring and in the fall….

And it’s important to contradict some of the earlier testimony that all needed to be tested at once….We would have the ability to used our current equipment…

In conclusion, I am opposed to this bill and opposed to all of these anti-Common Core State Standards proposed legislation and Smarter Balanced as well.

The Smarter Balanced to me is important because….now that we’ve got the Common Core integrated into our curriculum, we want to assessment to match so that we’re accountable to our community in terms of outcome.

There was testimony in support of the bill that was essentially the same as that presented at the press conference earlier that same day.

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