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.”