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There is a large gap between legitimate skeptical inquiry and ideological defiance – Rep. Mel Myler on the floor of the NH House

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Here are the comments of Rep. Mel Myler (D-Contoocook) speaking in support of the committee recommendation, Inexpedient to Legislate, on HB 1508, the one sentence bill that would have ended the Common Core in New Hampshire.  The vote was 201-138, including 17 Republicans, in favor of killing the bill.  Mel had to have been directly responsible for some of those votes.

Rep. Myler’s speech is transcribed below.  But his delivery is masterful.  You should listen to it or download it, below.  You can watch it here, starting at minute 2:56:41.

Thank you Madame Speaker.  Fellow colleagues, I rise today to support the Education Committee recommendation to ITL HB 1508.

We are all here to try to identify what’s best for our students across the State.  The question is how do we best achieve this objective?

Now you’ve heard today much about the Common Core State Standards.  I have carefully studied this topic.  I have a notebook full of correspondence of both supporters and opposers of  this and I have read each one.  I’ve attended a seminar of those actively opposing the Common Core to try to  identify issues that they’re concerned about.

I’ve attempted to identify those concerns and responses to them.  And let me try to identify them for you today as a summary of what we’ve heard this morning.

Concerns Response
There’s a concern that the Common Core is a federal mandate It is NOT a federal mandate.  The standards were developed by the Governor’s Association and Chief State School Officers NOT the Federal Department of Education
There’s a charge that local school districts must participate in the Common Core Local school can choose to participate in the Common Core.  As a matter of fact, Commissioner Barry made that very clear in testimony before the committee, that it is the choice of a local school district.
There’s a concern about the loss of local control The Common Core are standards; local school districts determine the curriculum to meet those standards
Another concern is the lack of input in the creation of the standards For 7 years, they’ve been in development; 100’s of educators, school district representatives and citizens have been involved in vetting these standards
Common Core is a national curriculum As I’ve said before, these are standards.  These are objectives of learning.  The curriculum to implement those standards are clearly the purview of the local school districts.
There’s a question about the rigor of standards Frankly, some say they’re too high, some say they’re not high enough.
The lack of teacher vetting standards Teachers have been deeply engaged in this state in the vetting of the standards.
Then there’s the question of, “Are standards age appropriate?” The standards have been vetted by practitioners and experts in the field.  They know that these are appropriate.
You’ve heard today that there have been two “validators” that say that the standards are not appropriate and did not sign off on the standards Two of 29 validators did not sign off.  The other 27 did sign off.  You’ve also heard questions about the math standards.  There are 19 national math organizations that deal with teaching of math, statistics of math…all of them have signed off on the math standards.
Then there’s the question of the cost of the test and technology as an unfunded mandate The department currently funds student testing and we have heard testimony is part of their regular budgeting process and there’s 3 years to bring them up to standards.
Then there’s the issue of the privacy of data The House Education Committee is extremely concerned about this.  The New Hampshire law provides some of the highest standards of privacy in this country.  We have looked at further engaging that and strengthening it in a proposal by Rep. Kurk.
And finally there’s the question that we spent time on this morning about the moratorium on conducting of test and its validity In NH, this is not a high-stakes test as it is on other states, but it is part of a multiple factor approach of looking at student achievement.

Now, these concerns have been answered.  However, there is a large gap between legitimate skeptical inquiry and ideological defiance.

Common Core moves education from a “Jeopardy Approach” to education – ie., question/answer – to question…answer…proof.  Students now have to prove they understand the concept, not merely memorize the concept and report it back on an exam.

In all candor, in the 50 years that I’ve been involved in education, this is the most transformational approach to education I’ve ever experienced.

It demands a whole new look at challenging students that are coming along.

And, unlike other states, the New Hampshire Department of Education has done this right. Unlike New York, that just foisted this on the school districts, the department has taken seven years to develop this – to engage people, to make sure that they understand what’s going on.  They have gone slow to go fast.

Why do we need to do this?

Students bring today a new sense of education.  They are in a different world.  Students today are “digital natives”.  If you’re over 30, you are a “digital immigrant.”  I am a digital immigrant.

And so I had this experience about 6 years ago.  I was in Ohio working with a group of students – talking about education, problems with education, what we might want to change with it – and one of those students went like this [holding up his phone].  He pulled out his smartphone and he said,

“Mr. Myler, ask me a question.”

I asked him a question.  He inputted it.  He says, “This the answer?”

It was the answer.

He said, “You see, I know how to get the answers.  What I need in schools is how to apply the answers, how to assess the answers.  That’s what I need.”

One final story, a personal story with by granddaughter, McKenzie.

She lives in Gloucester Massachusetts and we know that Massachusetts has been involved in the Common Core for about three or four years.

Last year, in her middle school, she was a straight A student – worked hard, did great, she wanted to have a challenge, an academic challenge, and she wanted to exercise a school choice option that they have in Massachusetts where you can appeal to go to another school.

She did and she went to the Hamilton-Wenham school district.  She’s a freshman there this year.  At the end of the first semester, we had a grandfather-daughter conversation about about schools and grades and I said,

“Mac, how’d you do?”

And she said, “Well, I got 3 A’s and 3 B’s”

And I said, “That’s great.”

And she said, “Well, I really wanted to have straight A’s but this school is pretty tough.  When I was in middle school, all I had to do was memorize.  In this school, I have to prove that I know the subject.  And you know what?  I’m learning more now.  I understand it more now.”

Hamilton-Wenham has been in the Common Core for the last 3 years

The Common Core will challenge students – no question about that.  It will challenge parents!

Change is not easy.  But in the end, the Common Core will ready our New Hampshire  students to be competitive in the 21st Century.

My friends, I encourage you to support the bipartisan vote of the House Education Committee to ITL HB 1508.


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