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Dr. Mark Joyce, head of the school administrators’ association testifies in support of the Common Core standards

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Dear Members of NH House Education Committee,

RE: Testimony in support of the common core and improved assessment practices

I am writing this email to share my testimony in support of the use of the common core standards and improved assessment practices in our public schools. I know you have heard my testimony before on these subjects but I am unable to attend the new hearings and the recessed hearing this coming week in that I am traveling for work and training future school leaders.

In brief, the members of New Hampshire School Administrators Association and the members of New Hampshire Special Education Administrators Association have been and continue to be very committed to improving the rigor and coordination of K-12 curriculum as a vitally important way of ensuring that all NH’s children will be prepared for the challenges of living in and prospering in the 21 century. The so-called common core standards provide a valuable baseline or foundation on which individual NH school districts can build a solid and coordinated curriculum as guided by the local school board. In addition, these standards have been studied and adapted by NH educators since 2007 and now play an integral part in the everyday instruction in our schools. Given the ongoing development of more rigorous standards, schools throughout NH are engaged in developing more responsive assessments that will assist in measuring individual student progress towards higher standards. We believe the adaptive nature of new assessments like “Smarter Balance” and newly created local formative assessments provide instructional useful measures that will allow teachers, parents, students and leaders to continually improve learning.

We have all heard a variety of concerns regarding these long term initiatives and I would like to reply to several that I have heard.

  1. The tests are too hard. I would certainly agree that they are more challenging than some prior local standards but if we expect our students to improve in their overall achievement – whether in comparison to another state or country – it is only logical that we need to teach more rigorous lessons.
  2. Some teachers do not like them and feel that some of their instructional freedom has been taken away. Again I would suggest that this quite a natural reaction of some but not a bad problem. Over my 43 years in education the greatest criticism I have heard from parents, students, employers, taxpayers and more is that the quality and consistency of instruction varies a great deal from class to class and school to school. This has resulted in some students being left behind. These new standards and measures have the great potential of correcting this injustice by providing a high but common standard for content BUT leaving total discretion to the educator to instruct, enrich and expand the learning.
  3. New assessment strategies will measure personal values and share data with businesses, etc. This is simply not true in my extended experience. The privacy of student personally identifiable information is clearly protected by federal law, state law, and local policy. In addition, I am aware that NH has received a special assurance from the test makers that all of local practices will be protected. If that is not enough, we are in support of Representative Kurk’s proposed bill to strengthen these protections even more.
  4. Schools and students can not effectively use on-line assessments. While it is true that not all school classrooms have the same computer equipment, it is also true that schools have successfully used on-line adaptive assessments in NH for many years. In particular, at one point over 6 years ago, 70% of NH school district’s used NWEA assessments several times per year and were able to assess whole classrooms successfully with existing technology in all regions of our state.

In summary on behalf of our members, I strongly encourage that the Education Committee find the bills that seek to delay, outlaw or weaken the continued development of common core based instruction and improved rigorous assessment Inexpedient to Legislate. These include: HB 1239, 1238, 1432, 1508 and others with similar intent).

I would be pleased to reply to any questions. mark@nhsaa.org

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully submitted

Dr. Mark V. Joyce, Executive Director
New Hampshire School Administrators Association
Bow Brook Place
46 Donovan Street, Suite 3
Concord, NH 03301
Telephone: 866-753-4479 (Toll free) or 603-225-3230
Facsimile Machine: 603-225-3225


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