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How to eviscerate New Hampshire public education in one paragraph

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The House Education Committee held its public hearing yesterday on Rep. David Murotake’s HB 1432, one of the “5 Bad Bills” to end the Common Core in New Hampshire.  But Rep. Murotake, a member of the Nashua school board (which did not support his proposals when he submitted them as a resolution), goes the other 4 bills one better.  His bill looks like an attempt to beat up New Hampshire public education and leave it in a ditch.

HB 1432 takes NH education apart, top to bottom

HB 1432 says that for the next two years, contrary to federal law, there will be no annual academic assessment of any kind given in New Hampshire.  It doesn’t just prohibit Smarter Balanced.  It prohibits any annual test at all.

As a result of its first sentence alone, we would lose our waiver and go back to No Child Left Behind and “adequate yearly progress,” but that’s the least of it. New Hampshire schools would lose at least $116 million in federal funding as a result of outlawing the annual assessment, inflicting unconscionable pain on the State, especially our poorest children and their schools that depend on that funding for the math, reading and special education specialists who help at-risk students catch up.

HB 1432 and its sister bills are saying, as many liberty legislators did a couple of years ago, that federal law shall be suspended in New Hampshire.

But that’s just the beginning.  The bill goes on to prohibit for several years the competency based assessments we have been working on for a decade.  In the early 2000’s, New Hampshire developed a new learning model in which students demonstrate mastery of required competencies.  That became part of our draft minimum standards in 2003-2004, under a Republican administration, and became law in 2005, under a Democratic administration.  Ever since then our high schools have been charged with fully integrating competencies into their curricula, with the elementary and middle schools not far behind.

All of this would be discarded and replaced with a committee going around the state on a listening tour.

Teachers’ opinions of the test

Dr. Murotake frequently quotes anonymous Nashua teachers with concerns about the Smarter Balanced test.  Lately, he has featured a letter from John Nelson, principal of Nashua’s Fairgrounds Middle School, sent to Nashua superintendent Dr. Mark Conrad and leaked to the Nashua Telegraph, conveying teachers’ concerns.  There must be teachers who fear the new test, but that not what the teachers I’ve talked to all over the state say.  And they’re on the record:

“I took the test at the high school level and I was actually kind of gratified….I felt empowered by that.”

“I’ve always taught creative writing within my regular curriculum but I never thought it was something my students would be tested on….I was kind of validated when I saw that on the assessment with a very specific, real life application to it.”

“There will be a transition.  It’s a big shift in math.  And when they do the performance task piece of the Smarter Balanced test, that will be a new experience for them….I can see the benefits already…The kids are very enthusiastic about performance tasks.”

Figuring there must be more to the Fairgrounds story, I called principal John Nelson to the get background on his letter.  He gave quite a different picture than the one Dr. Murotake paints.

He asked me to please tell whoever is using his letter to make the case against the Common Core or the Smarter Balanced test that they are using it in a way that is inconsistent with his intent.

Mr. Nelson said he had no issues with the Common Core at all and would not want to see it or the Smarter Balanced test interrupted.

He said that, as he has implemented the Common Core at Fairgrounds over the past several years, he has seen the impact in the students’ improved ability to think critically and with greater depth and complexity.  Concerning the test, he said he just wants his kids to be good enough at the mechanics of taking a computerized test to demonstrate their real knowledge.

He said his letter had no political intent at all, that sent his letter to the superintendent – not to the school board (he said, pointedly) – to let Dr. Conrad know what his teachers experienced so that they could work together on improvement.

And, indeed, as I talked with him, he was preparing for a meeting of the district’s principals where he anticipated that they would brainstorm to identify skills and curriculum enhancements that would help get the students more familiar with taking tests on computers.

All in all, I’d say he was a big fan of the Common Core and the test and just wanted his kids to get the most possible benefit from it.


3 Comments

  1. Scott Marion says:

    All I can say is “unbelievable!”

  2. Sue Hannan says:

    Nice reporting, Bill. I am glad you went to the source for the true intent of the letter. Too many times opponents of anything to do with public education take words out of context and most readers won’t dig for the truth.

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