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So far so good, it seems, for the Smarter Balanced field test in Nashua. As reported in today’s Nashua Telegraph,
Except for the occasional issue with individual student log-ins to the network, things seemed to have run smoothly – both for traditional classrooms and for special education and students for whom English is not their first language. Smarter Balanced also has braille and audio versions for the visually handicapped.
Ms. Ziehm and some other Nashua BOE members don’t seem to understand where the testing mandate is coming from. As this summary of assessment laws makes clear, the federal NCLB mandate, non-waivable, is that every child in grades 3-8 and one high school grade be tested every year. It must be a single test, statewide. In NH, the selected assessment to replace the NECAP that ended this year has, for years, been Smarter Balanced. As was clear during the debate of Rep. Murotake’s bill, the New Hampshire Department of Education does not have the option of waiving the requirement that Nashua give the statewide assessment. From the UL report: (more…)
Open Letter Signers,
Your letter raises a number of questions.
You say that you are acting as individuals – but also as officials elected to oversee Nashua’s schools. How is that possible?
And why are you willing to do board business – make a request of NHDOE – in a letter you say your are signing as individuals but that gives the impression you are signing as board members?
Are you trying to have it both ways?
You are a board majority. If you really think that Nashua should choose its own annual test, why don’t you pass a motion saying that?
Maybe you realize that it is just not possible for each New Hampshire community to choose a different test for the annual “statewide assessment.” If so, why do you put your names on a letter making that impossible request?
And why would you enlist Fairgrounds Principal John Nelson, who reports to you as board members, in your own personal political mission? He says that he did not send his letter to the board and that you are using it in a way that is inconsistent with his intent. Did you know that? Did anyone talk with principal Nelson?
There are other errors, including the confused reference to a mythical future test, but my message is simple.
You have been misusing your board of education positions in a political fight over the Common Core. There is no viable alternative to the Smarter Balanced test, nor is there a need for one. You should rethink your position.
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.
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.
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?
Having withstood challenges to its implementation of the Common Core, the Nashua School District appears to be doubling down on the new standards. Notice the highlighted bit from this Nashua Telegraph article today:
NASHUA – As New Hampshire continues work on implementing Common Core standards, a series of discussions among city education officials focused on curriculum and new technology Saturday morning at Nashua High School North.
The meeting, between members of the city education board and school administrators, took a closer look at the city’s existing curriculum and how to bring it up to the standards of the Common Core program.
At the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Karen Cerbase announced to the board a new process of evaluating teachers.
“At the end of a unit, there’s an assessment to make sure the teachers have met the standards of the unit,” Cerbase said.
Those assessments would be focused in the subjects of English Language Arts and mathematics and are slated to show critical thinking and problem solving skills of students, largely through extended response queries and technology enhanced items.
This kind of testing requires real attention and resources. It will also help students learn to use their skills in real world situations – and prepare for the new tests in 2015.
I’ll add a link to the video of the meeting when it becomes available.
The Nashua school board vote didn’t get too much attention last week, but it’s an important foreshadowing on the upcoming legislative session. School board member and state representative David Murotake proposed a resolution (here’s my post about it) urging the state department of education to postpone implementation of the Common Core and the new annual Smarter Balanced test. The board rejected the motion, 6-3.
Nashua community members urged the Board of Education to review its decision to implement Common Core Standards in district schools at a special discussion Monday.
Despite the community’s concern, the board voted turned down the resolution after nearly three hours of discussion. Board President Robert Hallowell said another proposal of its kind will be unlikely.
“Essentially, it would be very difficult for someone to bring it up again now, because it will be similar legislation,” he said. “Doesn’t mean it can’t happen in January, when the new board sits.”
Officials scheduled the meeting to review a resolution to the standards proposed by board member David Murotake. Common Core’s assessment details were the main subject of debate, as they question students about their behaviors and values.
“What they’re measuring in these assessments are your students’ attitudes, values and beliefs,” one community member said. “It’s not a valid assessment for our children.”
Rep. David Murotake has submitted a Legislative Services Request (#2097 – a request that staff work with the legislator to draft a bill for the next session of the Legislature) for which the one line summary is
“delaying implementation of certain statewide assessments and relative to studying the feasibility of certain changes to the minimum standards for school approval.”
Dr. Murotake’s bill may not be available on-line to the public for months yet but, based on some on-line commentary I’ve seen, it has been in circulation for awhile. The bill now appears to have surfaced in the form of a draft resolution that Dr. Murotake hopes will be considered by the Nashua School Board. Dr. Murotake is in a contested (six candidates for four seats) school board race, however, and the board chair has put off discussion until after the election on November 5th.
The key feature of Dr. Murotake’s draft resolution and bill is that it,
“Requests New Hampshire Board of Education and Department of Education to delay mandatory implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) and other Common Core State Standards (CCSS) alignments required in the CCSS Implementation Framework for a period of two years…”
Here 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?