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The push to undermine higher education standards comes down to this: postpone the test….

Political opponents of the Common Core have turned to the annual assessment to make their last stand.

The Smarter Balanced test New Hampshire has help develop is universally understood to be the best Common Core test, but attacking the test is all opponents have left.

It’s clear now that the Common Core standards themselves are a real improvement for New Hampshire students and are firmly in place.  And student data privacy, never a real problem in New Hampshire, will no longer be an issue at all when a new privacy bill passes (probably) in the next two weeks.

That leaves the complex and emotional issue of testing, the battle ground where Common Core opponents apparently feel that flim-flam will work.

If Common Core opponents can get New Hampshire to postpone the Smarter Balanced test or switch to a home made substitute, they can trumpet a victory over the Common Core and live on to fight the standards another day.  Simple as that.  Regardless of the consequences for New Hampshire.

The lead sponsor of HB 1432, the bill that targets Common Core testing, is Rep. David Murotake (R-Nashua).  He is using his position on the Nashua Board to sew confusion and bolster the political credibility of a bill that should easily be dismissed.

Here’s the story.

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Is there an alternative to the Smarter Balanced assessment? You be the judge.

A group of Nashua teachers and board of education members want Nashua to replace the Smarter Balanced assessment with a different test.  And HB 1432 would outlaw Smarter Balanced for two years as well as, the sponsor now says, any other test “associated with the Common Core.” (more…)

Will Nashua letters about alternative tests rescue Rep. Murotake’s troubled bill?

Back in November, when the Nashua Board of Education voted down David Murotake’s resolution to replace Smarter Balanced with another test, he took his proposal to the Legislature as HB 1432.  Now the Nashua Teachers’ Union and Nashua Board of Education members individually have gone around the Board of Education to provide support for Rep. Murotake’s bill, asking NHDOE to allow Nashua to use a different test.

The American Federation of Teachers affiliate Nashua Teachers’ Union is alone among unions in its quest for an alternative test.  Nationally, the AFT has long called for a moratorium on linking high-stakes consequences to the test, but the AFT has never proposed to choose which test to give or to change the federal law requiring annual testing.

And in today’s Nashua Telegraph, NEA-NH president Scott McGilvary took a position consistent with that of the NEA nationally when he said his union favored a grace period before the tests were used for evaluations but does not favor postponing the tests themselves:

The New Hampshire branch of the National Education Association – which represents a larger group of roughly 16,000 teachers – wants the state to move forward with the test, but limit how the results are used. NEA has proposed instituting a grace period before the test is used to evaluate student or teacher performance.

“Future students, who will have had more years of instruction in the new curriculum, will undoubtedly perform better than students who have had less time to learn,” NEA-NH President Scott McGilvray wrote in an op-ed piece released Thursday.

The 2 year “grace period” is already in place in New Hampshire.   However, NHDOE does not have the authority to allow each school district to choose its own annual assessment – statewide performance comparison is the whole point, after all, as well as a federal requirement – so the proposal that Nashua go its own way on testing makes no sense from an educational perspective.

But, in circulating these letters widely, Rep. Murotake clearly thinks they help his troubled bill politically.

Nashua superintendent Mark Conrad responds to the Nashua Teachers’ Union letter – Nashua Telegraph

Today’s Nashua Telegraph reports on the odd letter from the Nashua Teachers’ Union complaining about the Smarter Balanced test.  Here’s how superintendent Mark Conrad responded:

After reading Sherman’s letter, Nashua School Superintendent Mark Conrad said he was disappointed by the tone and by the fact the union did not suggest recommendations to improve the test.

“The concerns that they expressed regarding Smarter Balanced were either vague or confusing, and I think this has been a difficulty around working toward having a dialogue about Common Core or Smarter Balanced,” he said.

Regarding the district’s technological capabilities, Conrad said schools have sufficient bandwidth to implement the test. The district has replaced many computer screens over the last three years, he said, and wireless Internet networks have been updated at elementary and middle schools over the last two years.

In terms of the developmental appropriateness of the test, Conrad said he wonders whether the teachers realize the test will be adaptive. Some students might have a more positive experience with Smarter Balanced than with the test in use now because the questions will be tailored to suit their ability levels, he said.

“In what other ways can you make a state-level assessment more personal?” he said.

Conrad said it will take the district more than one year to get ready, and teachers and administrators must continue to work together during that time.

“We’re going to continue to move in this direction,” he said.

via Nashua Teachers Union criticizes Common Core standards test – NashuaTelegraph.com.

Message to Rep. Murotake: there is no alternative to Smarter Balanced that will meet the requirements of federal law

Rep. Murotake emailed all House members today defending HB 1432 and saying that my (widely shared) reading is incorrect.

He says that the bill does not suspend all testing, only tests “associated with the Common Core, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment.”

You be the judge, but it doesn’t really matter.  There is no testing alternative not “associated with the Common Core” that meets the requirements of federal law.

No Child Left Behind requires an annual test aligned with the State’s College and Career Ready Standards.  The Common Core is the New Hampshire standard.

So, as SBOE chair Tom Raffio, NHDOE chief of staff Heather Gage and I and many others have correctly testified, HB 1432 would cost New Hampshire our NCLB waiver and $116 million in federal funding.

(Rep. Murotake’s NECAP proposal is grasping at straws.  His bill would not allow a Common Core aligned NECAP, which, in any case, is not available.  And a non-Common Core version would not meet federal requirements – and is also not available.)

At this point, it is entirely unclear what Rep. Murotake or his bill would have the State of New Hampshire do.  But it is clear that HB 1432 needs to be put out of its misery.

An odd letter from the president of the Nashua Teachers Union

Rep. David Murotake (R-Nashua) has been quoting Nashua teachers saying, anonymously, that the Smarter Balanced test is bad.  Yesterday he circulated a letter from Nashua Teachers’ Union president Robert Sherman making some of the same points.  This being the first time I’d seen these complaints with a name attached, I had a lot of questions for Mr. Sherman.  I haven’t heard back but if I do I will post his response.  Here’s my email:

Mr. Sherman, Nashua Teachers’ Union President ,

Rep. Murotake has forwarded your NHDOE letter to the House Education Committee saying that it is “germane to your consideration of HB1432…,” a bill that would suspend all annual assessments of any kind in New Hampshire.  I have several questions about your letter.

First, did you intend – or anticipate – that your letter would be used politically in support of HB 1432?  And did you know that HB 1432 would violate federal law, risk $116 million in federal funding for New Hampshire and violate the State’s No Child Left Behind waiver agreement, putting Nashua and the rest of New Hampshire back under NCLB and AYP ratings?

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Sanborn Regional Superintendent, Dr. Brian Blake: Common Core cost is low, rigor is high, technology is no problem. ITL the bad bills

Sanborn is years down the road implementing the Common Core.  Dr. Blake says they have not seen any increase in costs as a result of implementing the Common Core and talks about looking forward to the rigor of the assessment:

Dear Members of NH House Education Committee,

RE:  Testimony in support of the Common Core and related issues.

I am writing this email to share my thoughts in support of the Common Core and issues related to it.  As the Superintendent of Schools for the Sanborn Regional School District, I fully support the implementation of the Common Core and improved assessment practices.

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Dr. Mark Joyce, head of the school administrators’ association testifies in support of the Common Core standards

Dear Members of NH House Education Committee,

RE: Testimony in support of the common core and improved assessment practices

I am writing this email to share my testimony in support of the use of the common core standards and improved assessment practices in our public schools. I know you have heard my testimony before on these subjects but I am unable to attend the new hearings and the recessed hearing this coming week in that I am traveling for work and training future school leaders.

In brief, the members of New Hampshire School Administrators Association and the members of New Hampshire Special Education Administrators Association have been and continue to be very committed to improving the rigor and coordination of K-12 curriculum as a vitally important way of ensuring that all NH’s children will be prepared for the challenges of living in and prospering in the 21 century. The so-called common core standards provide a valuable baseline or foundation on which individual NH school districts can build a solid and coordinated curriculum as guided by the local school board. In addition, these standards have been studied and adapted by NH educators since 2007 and now play an integral part in the everyday instruction in our schools. Given the ongoing development of more rigorous standards, schools throughout NH are engaged in developing more responsive assessments that will assist in measuring individual student progress towards higher standards. We believe the adaptive nature of new assessments like “Smarter Balance” and newly created local formative assessments provide instructional useful measures that will allow teachers, parents, students and leaders to continually improve learning.

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Dr. Elaine M. Arbour, Assistant Superintendent in Claremont testimony opposing the 5 Bad Bills to undermine the Common Core

Testimony in support of the common care and improved assessment practices

I am writing this email to share my testimony in support of the use of the common core standards and improved assessment practices in our public schools.

As Chair of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association’s Southwest Region’s Curriculum Administrators, I have frequent contact with my colleagues throughout the Southwest region and the state. During the course of our interactions, it has become clear to me that my colleagues support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as a means of improving the rigor and coordination of K-12 curriculum for New Hampshire’s children. (more…)

Even misinformation and heartstrings don’t make the sale for HB 1432 to suspend testing in NH

Summary

At a House Education Committee hearing Tuesday (recessed until 10:45, Tuesday, Feb. 18), Rep. David Murotake (R-Nashua) pitched HB 1432, his bill to suspend all annual testing in New Hampshire for two years, as a response to the call by the unions for a moratorium on “high-stakes testing.”  But that’s a pretty tough sell.  The unions aren’t calling for a testing moratorium and the test isn’t high-stakes in New Hampshire anyway.  Testing in New Hampshire has no stakes for the first two years and low stakes after that.

Key points from the hearing:

  • Rep. Murotake cited experience in troubled Common Core states like New York, although New York’s troubles come from many bad education reform policies that New Hampshire does not share (NY has just backed off its high stakes testing, which has been at the core of its problems.)
  • Rep. Bick asked Rep. Murotake whether New Hampshire had signed any agreements that would make suspending the assessments a problem.  Surprisingly, Rep. Murotake said he did not know.
  • But when Tom Raffio, President & CEO of Northeast Delta Dental and Chairman of the State Board of Education testified, he pointed out that the bill would cost New Hampshire $116 in federal funding and invalidate the State’s NCLB waiver.
  • Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro) testified about the need for testing to accommodate children with special needs, suggesting that this heartbreaking letter from the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition about a Florida bureaucrat’s  misguided effort to comply with No Child Left Behind requirement was the kind of thing New Hampshire would encounter if we continued testing our students.
  • Rep. Heath (D-Manchester) pointed out that HB 1432 prohibits any annual assessment, not just Smarter Balanced.  It also suspends the competency-based assessments around which school districts have reorganized their instruction.

Here is the Union Leader report on the hearing.  And here is more information on the bill itself.


Highlights from the Testimony

Rep. David Murotake (R-Nashua) introduced his bill with 12 minutes of testimony in which he got a remarkable number of things wrong.
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