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The Common Core is right for NH – Rep. Mary Heath (D-Manchester) in the Nashua Telegraph

Manchester Rep. Mary Heath, long-time educator and former deputy education commissioner, speaks out on the importance of the Common Core and, especially, the new Smarter Balanced test:

Standards and assessments in New Hampshire are not new. In 1993, the General Court passed a bill which codified the New Hampshire Curriculum Frameworks and assessments. That action launched statewide conversations about student learning based on standards.

In 2003, in response to the No Child Left Behind Act, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont adopted Grade-Level Expectations and the New England Common Assessment Program, better known as NECAP. The next step is the state’s College and Career Ready Standards.

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Corporate and education leader Tom Raffio makes an important statement in support of the Common Core – Nashua Telegraph

As a key corporate and education leader in New Hampshire and a long-time member of the State Board of Education, Tom Raffio has seen the Common Core develop in New Hampshire from its earliest days.  Here is his statement about it, in the form of an oped in the Nashua Telegraph (update: that also appeared in the Union Leader and the Concord Monitor): (more…)

Education tax credit program should be repealed – Concord Monitor

The Concord Monitor gets it right on the voucher tax credit law:

It’s not every day that the attorney general and the governor find themselves publicly at odds over important state policy, but it happened this week – and thank goodness.

At issue is a 2012 law that set up a tax credit program for businesses, essentially rewarding them for donating money to a fund that provides “scholarships” to help some children attend religious or other private schools, receive home-schooling or attend a public school outside their home district. Controversial from the get-go, the program was approved by the Legislature over the veto of then-Gov. John Lynch.

A superior court judge ruled last summer that the program could not be used to support religious school education. And this week Gov. Maggie Hassan weighed in, filing a brief encouraging the state Supreme Court to uphold the lower court ruling – in opposition to the attorney general’s office, which is defending the law.

“The governor treasures the diversity of private schools in our state, and fully appreciates their contributions to tolerance and learning. But the decision to contribute to a private religious school is a personal decision. It should not be supported by the state’s tax structure, and it should not have the effect of diverting scarce taxpayer dollars from crucial public needs,” Hassan said in her brief.

She’s right. The Supreme Court should do as the governor suggests. And, beyond that, the Legislature should pull the plug on the entire program.

….

read the rest here:Editorial: Education tax credit program should be repealed | Concord Monitor.

Misconceptions abound in Common Core criticism – Letter to the New Hampshire Business Review

Here is my letter as it appeared in the January 10 issue of the New Hampshire Business Review, with links added.
Editor:
The December 13th letter from the lobbying organization, Heartland Institute, in NHBR is so error-filled that it requires a response.
The first assertion is that there is no evidence that the Common Core will lead to better educated students.  But the opposite is the case.  The new standards are closely modeled on the best standards in the country, including those of Massachusetts, who’s schools are the highest performing in the country.  Any, now, Massachusetts has adopted the Common Core.  Beyond that, there is extensive international research and benchmarking that drew from the best education systems all over the world. (here)
Heartland‘s second charge, that the Common Core is about factory-style training, could not be further from the truth.  The goal of the new standards is to enable American students to read and think critically and apply their math skills to problems they have never seen before.

Rep. Cyndy Chase on the Common Core – Keene Sentinel

Former teacher Rep. Cindy Chase (D-Keene) has given education issues and the Common Core a lot of thought and had a great piece in yesterday’s Keene Sentinel.  Here’s a sample:

The Common Core, officially known as Common Core State Standards (CCSS), is coming to New Hampshire. In fact, it is already here and is causing something of an uproar in various educational circles. Whether that uproar is a good thing or a bad thing depends upon where on the sidelines you sit.

A bit of history: In 1965 Congress established the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Its purpose was to assist school districts impacted by a significant population of students living at or near the poverty level. Determination of poverty impact was made by the number of free or reduced-price lunches served in each school.

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Will States Fail the Common Core? – Randi Weingarten in the Huffington Post

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten makes some good points in this Huffington Post piece.  Notice her reference to bungled Common Core execution in New York, opponents’ favorite reference point (emphasis added):

The Common Core State Standards are taking so many hits these days that some might wonder why so many people think they should play an important role in American education. In our competitive, fast-changing global economy, if students don’t have higher-order capabilities like critical thinking and problem solving, mastery of essential knowledge, and the skill and will to persist, they will be left behind. That’s what the Common Core is about.

Instruction in many wealthier public and private schools is routinely aligned to such skills, often through project-based and hands-on learning. But between budget cuts and top-down accountability laws like No Child Left Behind–whose testing fixation promotes test-prep and rote memorization–poor kids have gotten less access to the well-rounded, rigorous education they deserve. Without standards aligned to what kids need to succeed in college, career and life, and ample supports to help them get there, that chasm will grow even wider.

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Amazing Concord Monitor oped by Robert Fried: Common sense about the Common Core

I don’t know Robert Fried, but I certainly hope to.  The tag for this oped says that he is “recently retired as director of the Upper Valley Educators Institute in Lebanon. He is the author of ‘The Passionate Teacher’ and ‘The Game of School,'” two books that have just moved to the top of my reading list.  Read the whole thing, here.  Now.  But here is a taste:

….Enter the Common Core. At the point where many enlightened educators and concerned parents were despairing of the political fights over “No Child Left Behind” and its emphasis on high-stakes testing, and when our children were facing weeks of filling in bubble sheets with no apparent connection to their own learning styles or interests, a group of thoughtful educators accepted a daunting challenge – to put their heads together and decide what, for our time, is our best guess as to what all children should be learning, grade by grade, in our public schools.

……

….if we accept that the Common Core is a serious attempt by some of our best teachers to balance the need for consistency with the desire for flexibility and personalization – in an effort to say, for our time, that “this is what we want our children to know” – then perhaps we should stop fighting it and learn to make it work for us, as teachers, parents and students. Here are some of the things we can try:

As students: ….Ask your teacher to help the class talk about each standard and try to put it into “kid language.”

As parents: Get a copy of the Common Core and read it, perhaps get together with other parents and invite a teacher or principal in to talk about it….

As teachers: …..Form a small study group with colleagues to talk about the implications of the Core and the testing that goes with it….invite our students into the conversation…..

Here’s how Harrison Little, a teacher in his first year in a public middle school, decided to approach this challenge:….

…for this great classroom story, go here, to Common sense about the Common Core in the Concord Monitor.

UL backs off its Common Core error. Now says: “The board did not ‘reject’ Common Core.” But then it goofs again.

“Common Core rejected by Manchester in favor of developing own academic standards” the Union Leader trumpeted on its front page yesterday, gleefully dancing in the end zone.  “Not so fast,” said NHPR.  So in today’s edition, the Union Leader is walking that back, saying in its lead editorial,

“The board did not “reject” Common Core. The plan is to use those standards as the “floor” for Manchester and spend the next several months coming up with a unique set that will exceed in academic rigor the standards presented in Common Core. The district is to spend $28,000 on this project. The standards are to be applied in the following academic year.”

Then the paper tries to regain lost ground on the front page, under a non-committal headline: “Common Core moves continue…”  But the sub-headline blows it again: “Nashua is considering holding off adopting the standards.”  The story delivers on this big news headline with one sentence way down in the story:

“On Tuesday, school officials in Nashua agreed to discuss a proposal from a school board member to put off fully adopting the Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced test for two years”

That is not true.  Nashua could not “hold off adopting the standards” – they are in the classroom already.  They could not “put off” Smarter Balanced testing without violating state law and losing federal funding.  And the resolution proposes none of that anyway.  It requests that the State do those things.

So in its ferver to construct a narrative that doesn’t exist – “district by district, New Hampshire is rejecting the Common Core – the Union leader gets the story wrong in too many ways to count.

Then it even goes on to grumble that Common Core opponents will be “watching closely to ensure that Manchester develops a genuine alternative to Common Core and not the same standards by another name.” (That’s the $28,000 project the editorial tells us about.)

An editorial position opposing the Common Core is one thing, but the Union Leader confuses the issue and does the State a disservice when its reporting is so far off the mark.

If this is Common Core opponents’ best shot…

Did you ever notice that, for Common Core opponents, everyone is the enemy – except other opponents of public education?  In this opinion piece from today’s Nashua Telegraph, Nashua’s dedicated educators are the enemy who, for some reason, are conspiring to make our kids illiterate and mislead their parents.  According to Common Core opponents, Nashua’s educators have that in common with all other New Hampshire educators.  But read this oped by Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad, also in today’s Telegraph, and see if you think he’s conspiring against your kids.  Between the two viewpoints, the choice is easy.

Although I’ve critiqued an earlier version of Ann Marie Banfield’s oped as it appeared in other papers and, apparently in response, she’s made some corrections, I’ve commented further below to highlight the errors in this slightly modified version.

In reply to the Nashua School District on the verge of embracing Common Core standards, one needs to understand that those supporting this new education reform effort tend to leave out critical information parents need to know.

Nashua is not “on the verge” of anything.  The district has always been guided by New Hampshire’s educational standards and is now into its second year of implementing the State’s latest standards which incorporate the Common Core.

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Common Core critical to our future – Superintendent Mark Conrad in the Nashua Telegraph

Nashua School District LogoHere is an excerpt from Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad’s piece on the Common Core in today’s Nashua Telegraph.  Notice that it is grounded and factual, like the new standards themselves.  Read the whole thing.  Contrast it with what you see from the opponents, as in this piece, also today in the Telegraph.

The Common Core state standards came about because of concern from educators and employers that we must address the need for our high school graduates to possess the skill sets necessary for success in college and careers. As a result, the new standards specify more rigorous knowledge and skills that students now need in reading, writing, speaking and listening (the English Language Arts Standards), and for solving problems in math (the Mathematics Standards). Students will now be expected to:

• read and understand more challenging non-fiction texts and articles across content areas (such as social studies, math and science.)

• use evidence gathered from one text (or multiple texts) to support what they write and say.

•  understand academic language and vocabulary.

•  apply math problems in real-world settings with a conceptual understanding in how to solve the problems, and with procedural fluency.

•  explain how to solve math problems and represent them in graphs, charts and tables.

•  persevere in solving problems.

If we begin by asking what is best for our students and dispel the misunderstandings about the Common Core, I believe the case for supporting them becomes much clearer. Indeed, who can reasonably argue that we don’t want our students to graduate with the skills mentioned above?

via Common Core critical to our future – NashuaTelegraph.com.