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Home » PACE » Have you heard confusing rumors about PACE and HB 323? Here are the facts you need.

Have you heard confusing rumors about PACE and HB 323? Here are the facts you need.

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The bill has become a lightning rod for people who just plain oppose NHDOE, some of whom want to shut it down.  But most legislators will acknowledge that the criticisms are baseless.

House Education Committee chair Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) wrote HB 323 as an expression of legislative support for the hard work done by four New Hampshire school districts and the department of education in creating a way for local classroom based assessments to replace some standardized tests.  Here is some background on New Hampshire’s innovative PACE program.

HB 323 passed the House with an overwhelmingly positive voice vote but has drawn opposition from some in the Senate based on serious misinformation provided by opponents of competency based education.

In response to the erroneous rumors, Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, has sent a fact sheet to all New Hampshire senators.  In addition, PACE leader Ellen Hume-Howard, curriculum director for Sanborn Regional School District, emailed all senators providing a point-by-point factual response to the misstatements.

Here is my own summary of four key points:

PACE will not be required in any district.

The source of a rumor that PACE would be required is unclear. It is simply not true.

Districts from the largest, Manchester, to Fall Mountain, among the smallest, have expressed a desire to participate in PACE but no districts will be required to participate.

The voluntary nature of the program applies to the Common Core standards as well.  School districts that choose to participate are free to use their own standards as long as they meet the state minimum standards.

The waiver letter speaks of a “statewide” assessment system, meaning a single system that includes competency based performance assessments in participating districts and an annual statewide assessment wherever PACE assessments are not used. It does not mean that every district will be required to participate in PACE.

One web site that makes the “PACE required” assertion also says on the same page, “we can adopt a “single statewide system” of assessments and be in compliance with the federal Waiver WITHOUT PACE.”

That is correct.  PACE will not be required in any school district.

PACE does not require weekly assessments

An advocate’s website asserts, “Four end-of-year assessments are replaced by 30 weekly assessments annually under PACE.”

This may be the most startling in the list of erroneous assertions. Asked where this idea came from, the advocate cited an anonymous parent from unnamed school district!

Department staff and PACE pilot districts are unfamiliar with any basis for this kind of assertion. PACE leader Ellen Hume-Howard, curriculum director for Sanborn Regional School District, says, “PACE assessments are not something you would do weekly. They are assessments given at the end of a year.”

Charter schools will not be “destroyed” by PACE. Charters may choose to participate, but will not be required to adhere to any specific testing schedule.

The charter school error is built upon the “weekly assessments” error. Since there is no weekly assessment, there is no impact on the curriculum of charter or any other schools.

In fact, Kim Carter, Chief Education Officer of the widely respected MC2 charter school in Manchester, said in a phone interview, “Performance assessments will NOT destroy charter schools. They are in fact what many charter schools use. Performance assessments allow students to show the range of what they’ve learned, not just what they were required to learn. They are the best way to know what students can really do.”

HB 323 will not “regionalize” public schools. HB 323 will have no effect on how public schools are organized, regionally or otherwise.

There is no basis given for this assertion either.

Professional development and other forms of training have always been offered on a regional basis for the convenience of attendees. PACE workshops are done that way as well.

As Deputy Commissioner Leather says, “New Hampshire schools have been implementing competency based education for 10 years, with no change in how they are organized. The PACE assessment strategy is merely the next step. Neither PACE nor HB 323 will have any impact on how New Hampshire schools are organized.”


  1. A few Manchester school board members asked questions about PACE during their very controversial meeting with the Commissioner. There was no motion or vote to implement PACE in Manchester, so I don’t know where you get your information.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Mayor Gatsas has been asking publicly for over two months about why Manchester was not been given an opportunity to participate in PACE (Manchester did have that opportunity and still does, as Mr. Raffio pointed out). Of course they want to participate. The only reason they didn’t, according to their administration, was they didn’t have the capacity to do that and write their new standards at the same time.

  2. “Finally, this waiver is also granted based on NHDOE’s intent to move to a single Statewide system in which all LEAs are administering the same assessment system to all students in each grade, within a timeframe identified by NHDOE and approved by ED. If the transitional pilot proves impracticable to continue or expand (or ED determines it must withdraw approval of the waiver), NHDOE will require the pilot LEAs to administer the Statewide assessments to all students.”

    The department’s “intent” is to move to a single Statewide system, presumably using the PACE pilot program, if that fails then districts will fall back on Smarter Balanced.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Yes, I do know that that paragraph is the thin reed on which you hang your assertion that all districts will be forced into PACE. It will be a big benefit for New Hampshire children if lots of districts have the capacity to move to PACE but it is real work and some may never get there.

      The references to a “single Statewide system” and “the same assessment system” rather than to “the same assessment” are in there to specifically acknowledge the fact that, indefinitely into the future, the State’s assessment system will consist of a combination of districts using PACE and others not using it. The department has committed to nothing more than that.

      Page 50 of the department’s PACE application to USED even talks about how hard that will be and that there is no assurance of success in bringing the project to scale:


      blockquote>p.50 The state is currently developing plans for scaling such efforts to all NH schools. The current PACE accountability system, even if fully successful, is based on a voluntary proof of concept pilot with high-capacity schools. Improving chronically low-performing schools will be an enormous challenge. The state is committed to supporting the development of local leadership and capacity to help low performing schools implement the PACE system with fidelity. However, there are no illusions that this will happen overnight. In fact, the networked approach supported through PACE and other NH reform initiatives is likely the only viable strategy for bringing PACE to scale. This would involve growing this reform at a rate that can be managed and supported, while continuing to focus on building local expertise as part of regional and statewide networks. Additionally, NHDOE is working closely with and supporting NH’s 18 Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) in their efforts to transform teacher education and to require performance-based evidence of acceptable pre-service candidacy. Again, NH DOE does not assume that implementing a reciprocal accountability will be easy or smooth, but is committed to employing an approach couched in research on individual and organization learning to realize the deeper learning for students envisioned by many NH stakeholders.

  3. Tom Cecere says:

    Bill, I’m generally a supporter, but not on this issue. Continued support for high quality public education rests on a simple answer to a simple question: “How are NH schools doing, and how does that compare to other states?” As soon as you start giving a complex answer to that question, you lose mainline support.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Overuse of the existing standardized assessments is the complex answer in this case, Tom. Moving assessments back into the classroom and still making them comparable across schools and states will take some real work but is well worth it.

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