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Manchester: We face different challenges so should not have to take the Smarter Balanced test

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Manchester’s Mayor Gatsas fired the next round in his exchange with New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Virginia Barry, gleefully covered in the Union Leader under the headline, “Gatsas to NH education czar: Explain yourself.”:

“Gatsas told the board that Barry’s decision went against assurances she had made that the district would not be locked into Smarter Balanced and undermined its efforts to implement its own curriculum and assessment in place of Common Core, the controversial national education benchmarks. Smarter Balanced is designed to be compatible with Common Core.”

The Mayor’s letter said his students should not have to take the Smarter Balanced assessment because “the Manchester School District is unique.  The challenges we face are different than any other school district in the State of New Hampshire.”

This is not dissimilar to the concerns expressed months ago by some teachers in Nashua, the other New Hampshire city with high proportions of minorities and low-income families.  In their letter and subsequent discussions, teachers expressed a fear that their students would not be prepared for the difficult new test.

However, the Nashua Board of Education determined that the New Hampshire education commissioner did not have the power to grant a waiver – state and federal law required that they take the same annual assessment that would be used in every other district in the State (and in many other cities around the country, like Los Angeles, with even more challenging demographics).  So the district participated fully in the Smarter Balanced field test last spring and found that it wasn’t so bad after all.

Manchester did not participate the field test, so the district’s faculty and students will see the assessment for the first time next spring.  However, according to the Union Leader, Superintendent Livingston “said that she believed the district would have the capability to administer the test, by computer, in the spring.”


  1. wgersen says:

    Too bad NH didn’t sidestep RTTT like VT did… I know from experience that the political climate is different in each state and NHDOE effectively had no choice… but Gatsas’ might be onto something. Not only is HIS district unique, each district in the State is unique… and the “one size fits all” approach implicit in NCLB and RTTT doesn’t acknowledge that. Here’s VT’s response to having all its school’s failing now that it didn’t seek a waiver:

    • Bill Duncan says:

      What standards are Vermont using, Wayne, and what test are they giving?

      • Bill Duncan says:

        Answer: Common Core and Smarter Balanced.

        As in New Hampshire, every school in Vermont must take the same test. It’s not a matter of RTTT vs. NCLB. The Vermont SBOE statement is long on rhetoric, but Vermont has not made actual policy choices fundamentally different from those in New Hampshire.

        As a side observation, Smarter Balanced is the one test in which one size doesn’t fit all. Each child gets a test customized to her strengths and weaknesses.

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