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Testimony on HB 1508 to shut down the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced test in New Hampshire

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The highlight of the hearing was New Hampshire Education Commissioner Barry’s impassioned plea that, after 7 years, it is time to move on from the Common Core debate (video here)

The hearing started The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lenette Peterson (R-Merrimack) introduces her bill briefly, with an illustration of the problem in how the Common Core teaches math.  Other key points made it testimony:

  • Rep. Muns: The Common Core will enable our children to compete worldwide.
  • Rep. Cormier: It’s not clear what Alton is doing or will do to replace the Common Core.
  • Rep. Porter: Although she abhors the over-testing of American students, under current law, our children must be tested and Smarter Balanced is the best way to do that.
  • Rep. Grady: The Common Core comes provides what we want for our students – excellence.
  • Rep. Murotake: Although NHDOE says the Common Core is voluntary for the districts, it is not.
  • Mr. Raffio: Letter saying”And I have great confidence that the Smarter Balanced test will meet the needs of educators as they use this assessment as ONE measure of student achievement.”
  • Mr. Juvet: In response to a question, said that critics are a “small, small, small” minority of those who participated in developing the Common Core.

The hearing recessed before everyone was able to testify but will reconvene on Thursday, February 13, at 3:00.

Highlights from the Testimony

Lenette Peterson introduces her bill by saying that she will “leave it to the experts” to tell the committee what the bill really does.  She goes on to say that students learn their multiplication tables only under what she calls “old math.”

The truth is, memorization of your multiplication tables is at the core of the Common Core.  Here is the the 3rd grade standard that requires memorization of multiplication table, while understanding division as well:

Fluently multiply and divide within 100, using strategies such as the relationship between multiplication and division (e.g., knowing that 8 × 5 = 40, one knows 40 ÷ 5 = 8) or properties of operations. By the end of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers.

So, the point is, when you juxtapose the erroneous certainty of the sponsor of this bill (at minute 0:50) with the reality of the standards themselves, you have the whole debate about the Common Core in microcosm.

Rep. Chris Muns (D-Hampton) is chair of the Winnacunnet School Board, said (1:16),

The Common Core will better prepare our students for the realities of the current economic environment that we live in, where our kids are not only competing with other kids in New Hampshire and New England, but they are competing with kids across the country and across the world.  The new standards do a much better job of preparing them for that reality.

Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) then testified (02:23) in support, listing the same “unanswered questions” she in her press conference.

Rep. Cordelli asked what Alton is doing instead of the Common Core.  Rep. Cormier didn’t know.  Rep. Myler asked what Alton was doing for replacement standards.  Rep. Cormier said they were investigating possibilities.  Here is an Alton teacher who says that nothing has changed since Alton’s decision to abandon the Common Core.

Rep. Peter Hansen testified for the bill, saying that the Common Core is experimental and our kids are like rats in a cage and that, until other countries put a a man on the moon, we should not pay attention to what they do.

Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro) said (10:31),

I have been a public school teacher for most of my life and I left public school teaching on purpose in 2002 because I was opposed to No Child Left Behind as well as standardized testing.

I continue to maintain my abhorrence for the over-testing of American students.

However, I am here today in support of the Smarter Balanced test.  You don’t know how much of a change that is for me.

We are still required by law to give tests to all children in grades 3-8 and 11.  That is the law of the country.

And when I look at the Smarter Balanced test and compare it to other standardized fill in the bubble tests that I have experienced in my career, I must say, if we have to have a test, I’d rather it be this one.

It’s computer adaptive.  It allows children to move along at their own speed. The results are more reliable.  The information from it helps teachers to help students to learn at their best capacity.

Rep. Brenda Grady (D-Merrimack) said (12:56),

I am a retired high school teacher, chair of the science department…, I have been a school board member. I have dealt with curriculum decisions….It is something very close to me.

And because of that, I want to say that the Common Core comes as close as you can possibly get to what we all think we want for our students – and than is excellence.

Rep. David Murotake (R-Nashua), sponsor on many of the anti-Common Core bills, said (15.12) he sponsored this bill because

“it removes the State from mandating the Common Core but it does not prohibit the school districts from adopting the Common Core on a voluntary basis.”

(Actually, districts use the Common Core on a voluntary basis now in New Hampshire.  And HB 1508 does get rid of the Smarter Balanced test, so it has all the same flaws the Rep. Murotake’s bill does.)

Rep. Murotake goes on to say that the Common Core does impose a cost on the districts and that, regardless of the NHDOE says, the Common Core is mandatory in New Hampshire.

Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry) testified (19:05) that the Common Core is an unfunded mandate.

Dave Juvet (23:11), senior vice president with the BIA, testified in opposition to the bill and read a letter from Tom Raffio:

I am writing in my capacity as CEO of Northeast Delta Dental and also as the Chairman of the New Hampshire State Board of Education and also the Co-Chair of the Business and Education Coalition to express my strong support for the New Hampshire College and Career Ready Standards, including the English Language Arts and mathematics portions based on the Common Core State Standards. And I have great confidence that the Smarter Balanced test will meet the needs of educators as they use this assessment as ONE measure of student achievement.

Northeast Delta Dental relies, as do other major New Hampshire corporations, on New Hampshire public education at all levels.  We require critical thinkers who can engage our customers in a literate and confident way and solve problems that require strong foundational knowledge and a range of mathematical, statistical and writing skills.  With the implementation of the Common Core standards, New Hampshire companies can be confident that our educators share that goal.

The State Board of Education endorsed the Common Core State Standards in 2010 after years of work by NHDOE alongside their peers in other states.  The Department and hundreds of New Hampshire teachers reviewed each draft of the standards in detail and provided feedback that we then saw reflected in subsequent drafts.  We felt as if we had a strong voice in the development of the new standards.

Now, after over three years of committed work by teachers and district leadership getting the new standards into classrooms across the state, teachers are seeing the benefits and we hear strong support from all corners of New Hampshire.  Our educators see the Common Core as a major step forward for New Hampshire students.

Northeast Delta Dental applauds the dedicated work of our New Hampshire educators in using the Common Core standards as an improved roadmap for instruction in our classrooms.

I am aware, as we all are, of the controversy surrounding the standards and the difficulties some states have had in implementing the standards in a way that benefits students. That is why I am all the more proud of our accomplishments here in New Hampshire.

Our NCLB waiver, negotiated over many months with the support of the Legislature, our teachers, their unions and our superintendents, gave us the flexibility we need to implement the new standards and the required annual assessments in a way that supports teachers and learning. We have avoided the high stakes approach taken by other states.  In the first two years, there is no federal requirement that the annual tests play any role at all in teacher evaluation.  After that, while student performance must be part of the evaluation in Title I schools, the annual assessment need only be a minimal part of that performance assessment.  These kinds of decisions continue to be left to the local school districts.

New Hampshire plays a lead role in the management of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  I was gratified to see that the major study comparing all available Common Core annual assessments undertaken by the Michigan Department of Education showed that the Smarter Balanced assessment was clearly superior to the alternatives.  It is the only assessment that is computer-adaptive, leading to a much more useful result.  Its data security protocols are strong.

My commitment to you is that the Smarter Balanced assessment will provide our teachers a valuable part of the feedback they need as they develop their new Common Core based lesson plans. We are fortunate to have selected and helped develop the right assessment solution for New Hampshire children.
In closing, I would like to convey to you the unanimous support for the Common Core voted by the New Hampshire Coalition for Business & Education, a group I co-chair with Fred Kocher to help business and educators work together.
At 28:12, Rep. Cordelli asks Mr. Juvet whether the BIA listened to all sides before voting for the Common Core.  Mr. Juvet described the staff process and the unanimous board vote in support.
Mr. Cordelli followed up, asking whether the BIA had looked at criticisms of people involved in validation of the standards but who are now opposed – and would he like to look at it.  Mr. Juvet said,
I would be happy to look at it, Rep. Cordelli.  I suspect I have probably already seen a lot of the criticism from those individuals who are opposed to Common Core.  My belief is they represent a small, small, small minority of those who worked on the development of the Common Core standards.
The hearing will resume on Thursday, February 13, at 3:00


  1. Scott Marion says:

    Great testimonies from some really thoughtful folks!

  2. […] 1508-FN (testimony here) is a one sentence bill that seeks to “terminate all plans, programs, activities, and […]

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