Kim Kelliher’s school, Prospect Mountain High School, is jointly managed as SAU#301 by Alton and Barnstead. Each town has its own K-8 elementary/middle school.
The Alton half of the partnership is ground zero for political opposition to the Common Core. The Alton school board has voted against the Common Core and Rep. Jane Cormier of Alton has proposed HB 1397 to investigate the New Hampshire Department of Education for implementing the Common Core (committee recommended ITL 14-5).
Regardless of any potential job security concerns (Rep. Cormier’s husband serves on both the Alton and the SAU#301 boards), area educators have been unambiguous in their support of the new standards based on the impact in their classrooms. Richard Kirby, 6th grade math and social studies teacher at Alton Central, the Alton school district’s only school, spoke on the value of the Common Core standards at a forum last fall, and at the September 2013 school board session that went on to vote 3-2 against the Common Core. (Rep. Cormier said recently that the board has so far identified no alternative standards.)
And now, based on her own classroom experience, high school social studies teacher and curriculum leader Kimberly Kelliher has submitted to the House Education Committee this Common Core testimony opposing all the anti-Common Core and anti-testing bills.
RE: HB 1508 (specifically) and all other bills with similar intent (HB 1239, HB 1238, HB 1432)
Dear Members of NH House Education Committee,
I am writing this email in order to provide first hand testimony in support of using common core standards and improved assessment practices in our public school systems. Not only have I been a full time teacher for almost twenty years, but I also graduated from Winnacunnet High School and received my Bachelor’s Degree from Keene State and my Master’s Degree from UNH. So, I have a lot of experience in the NH educational system, as a student and an educator. It gives me great perspective.
As a full time teacher for almost twenty years and a teacher leader, my experience has been vast and as I reflect, I want to share my reasons with you as to why the NH Legislature should support common core instructional practices along with the aligned assessment practices, and not move forward with the passage of HB 1508. Below are some of the reasons that HB 1508 should not be supported by our legislature:
Ø The Common Core Standards and Assessment that accompany them are necessary to improve the quality of education for our students. Today’s world is much different than it was even just 10 years ago. The purpose of the CCSS is to prepare our future generation for careers and/or college. They are designed to provide a framework for teachers to bring high expectations to students in order to better prepare them for life after they graduate high school, which ever path they choose; the workforce or college.
Ø Achievement tumbles when students switch schools. The common core standards and consistent assessment practices provide consistency of important skills for every student. All our children should be given the opportunity to excel by being offered a rigorous curriculum. If all schools are implementing the common core standards then we will reduce the number of students who tumble if they switch schools. In today’s day and age it does seem that more families are moving more frequently than then did 20 years ago. The Common Core helps to provide a framework for teachers at each grade level of where students should be by the end of the year and will help cut down on discrepancies in learning. If we adopt this practice and stay true to it, then there will be less gaps between what students are learning in each of our schools. This will benefit our children and strengthen our public education system state wide.
Ø Some people may think that by having common standards, it will limit the freedom in the classroom. At first glance, one may think that but the fact remains that it is simply not true. The purposes of the standards is to provide a consistent end result for our students at various grade levels. In no way does this prohibit a master teacher from getting to this end goal in his/her own way. Let me provide an example of how I, as a classroom teacher, interpret one of the standards and how I would incorporate it into a lesson. I will take for example a standard on reading information text for grade 9-10, that students will “Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.” In order to help students develop this skill, the students would work with various texts (not just a textbook) like reading newspaper, magazine articles, internet blogs, websites and analyze what the text is describing and from what perspective that information is shared. As part of this standard, it is also important that students be able to cite this source correctly. In today’s information age, there is a lot of information coming at us quickly. This skill, to be able to determine information accurately and from what perspective it is coming at us from, is a life skill that everyone should have.
Let me elaborate further with a specific example. If we were to look at a controversial issue like the Northern Pass. There is a lot of information coming at us from both sides; both make very compelling arguments. Wouldn’t it be a great opportunity for our students to read various perspectives, from various textual sources and analyze what those sources are saying about Northern Pass? Then students can become personally involved by digesting the information and taking a position based off of the information they have learned. This is a higher order thinking skill that we want all students to have as they go into the work force or off to college. We want students to be able to analyze information and then form their own, educated, position. This is what a civilized society does. And, students also need to be able to give credit to where they “heard things” by citing them, rather than just saying, “oh, I read it somewhere” or “it was on the internet, it must be true”. So, if we take this example, in one classroom, students may analyze textual information about the Northern Pass but in another classroom, they may read about drilling for oil in Alaska or about the impact of a historical event like the Civil War. The bottom line is that the common core standards don’t inhibit teachers from being good teachers but it does encourage all to have high standards for all our students. How can anyone argue that this is a bad idea?
Ø Our state motto philosophically supports a “hands off” approach, so we should not adopt anything educationally that limits the freedom to the people in our state. Again, the common core standards do not limit, what they provide is a guide for teachers to have rigorous expectations for ALL our students so that they are prepared for the world that they are going into. It also provides consistency throughout the state for all students to be challenged the way that they should be challenged, with a rigorous curriculum and high expectations. Our students deserve nothing less.
Ø Regarding the testing that aligns with the Core, we should not delay in testing the students because some may think that the students are not prepared. Rather than delaying testing, we should go forward and use the test results as a baseline to compare future test results in order to see the growth as common core standards are implemented throughout the state.
Thank you for taking the time to read my arguments supporting the CCSS instructional practices for teachers, as well as the assessment practices that will align with the standards. If I can be of further assistance to help answer any questions that you may have about how the CCSS will help to overall improve our education system in NH, I would be more than happy to follow up with you.
I would consider any further action of the legislature that delays, outlaws or weakens the continued development of common core based instruction and improved assessment practices to be extremely unwise. These include: HB 1239, 1238, 1432, 1508 (and others with similar intent).
Wolfeboro, NH 03894