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Manchester continues its anti-assessment push via its letter to parents describing opt-out procedure

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The Union Leader reported on the Board of School Committee’s letter to parents explaining how they can pull their children from the statewide assessments in the coming weeks. The Board considered rejecting the State’s Smarter Balanced assessment all together but acknowledged that that would have cost millions in federal funding.  Instead, the Board sent the letter advising parents of the opt out option.

Both NHDOE and the U.S. Department of Education told Manchester that the test is required of all students–outside of the six exemptions–and that even advising parents to opt out risks the federal funds if too many students take that option.

Teachers and students agree that Smarter Balanced is a tremendous improvement over the old NECAP tests:

“The NECAP does not benefit students,” says Ellen Hume-Howard, the curriculum director for Sanborn School District which includes Kingston and Newton, “They walk away from doing it as some sort of tortuous six-hours that they had to spend, it doesn’t help them.”

“The Smarter Balanced Assessment System will give parents more accurate and actionable information about what students are learning. In addition, parents use this information to better communicate with teachers and school administrators about their child’s success,” wrote Londonderry’s Assistant Superintendent Scott Laliberte.

Assessments provide essential information about how schools are performing. Parents get insights into how their children are doing in the classroom–and teachers learn where the school’s curriculum needs improvement. Smarter Balanced was designed to align with New Hampshire’s College and Career Ready standards, the minimum standards for New Hampshire schools based on the Common Core standards. Manchester’s own “Manchester Academic Standards” are a modified version of the Common Core standards, so the Smarter Balanced is still a good fit.

In addition, uniform testing ensures that educators and administrators are comparing apples to apples when comparing outcomes among districts throughout the State.

(Also, it is state law.)

Four New Hampshire districts actually have reduced their reliance on the Smarter Balanced assessment.  The U.S. Department of Education recently approved New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation pilot assessment program, the Performance Assessments of Competency Education, or PACE.

The PACE pilot reduces the number of mandated assessments from seven (once in third through eighth grade, and once in high school) to three (once in elementary, middle, and high school).  The program was approved in four districts but, if the program is effective, more will participate each year. Manchester could participate in PACE in future years and help the whole State take the next step beyond standardized testing.


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