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

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. (more…)

In districts experimenting with new tests, writing questions is only half the task–NHPR

NHPR chronicled the challenging process that four school districts are undertaking to roll out the highly anticipated PACE project. Teachers have been meeting with each other and the NH-based Center for Assessment to develop the assessment questions and to calibrate them, a process that ensures uniform grading among classrooms and districts. While the assessments aren’t “standardized,” in the usual meaning of the term, they do need to be comparable across districts to be valid measures of student learning, making the calibration process crucial in order for the PACE project to work. (more…)

Extended learning opportunities thrive in Pittsfield

New Hampshire has become a leader in the nation’s education reform efforts, from piloting an innovative assessment program (PACE) to student-centered “extended learning opportunities” where students participate in volunteer work, internships, or independent study in lieu of traditional classroom study. (more…)

Manchester continues its anti-assessment push via its letter to parents describing opt-out procedure

The Union Leader reported on the Board of School Committee’s letter to parents explaining how they can pull their children from the statewide assessments in the coming weeks.  (more…)

NH Deputy Education Commissioner Paul Leather testifies in Washington on how to move on from the bubble test

One of the biggest debates in American public education is over the annual standardized tests the 13 year-old No Child Left Behind requires of states.  New Hampshire is seen as a national leader in developing credible alternatives to over-testing in our schools.

Last week, New Hampshire Deputy Commissioner of Education Paul Leather testified before the Health, Education, Labor & Pension Committee, chaired by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, as it rewrites the No Child Left Behind act. The committee’s most important proposal will be a new flexibility modeled on New Hampshire’s unique assessment strategy.

Deputy Commissioner Leather’s testimony was based on years of work in school districts from Rochester to Sanborn, the Milan Village Elementary School, charter schools like MC2 in Manchester and Next in Derry and many others. The department of education has worked with the schools to show how to put educators in charge of assessing students’ progress without allowing standardized testing to disrupt learning.

Here is video of Deputy Commissioner Leather’s testimony describing what we have learned (go to minute 45:48).

Rochester teachers Melissa Cunliffe and Sara Cantrell talk about competency based learning and New Hampshire’s new assessment strategy

As one of New Hampshire’s four PACE school districts, Rochester is ground zero for working out the future New Hampshire public education, giving children the opportunity to learn in their own way.  But Rochester’s educators and their leadership are not being shown a new way to teach; they are building new ways for their children to learn, from the ground up.

To see how it’s going, I spent yesterday with the wonderful Maple Street Magnet School principal Robin Brown visiting five schools at every grade level.  I came away amazed at how completely this 4,300 student district and its 346 teachers have committed to their new path. (more…)

Here’s more about why everyone is so interested in how New Hampshire is changing student testing

There was a time when American education policy makers who cared about equity for low-income children, minorities and children with special needs felt that heavy use of standardized tests was the way to ensure that.  So in 2001, Senator Ted Kennedy was glad to join President George W. Bush in passing No Child Left Behind.  Education historian and advocate Diane Ravitch, an Assistant Secretary of Education at the time, said in 2005,

“We should thank President George W. Bush and Congress for passing the No Child Left Behind Act … All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents’ generation.”

Now she says, as she did in an recent exchange on her blog, “Why aren’t [education policy makers] looking enviously at Finland, where there is no standardized testing until the end of high school,” going on to say that current discussions of alternatives are”a mass revolt among parents and teachers” against standardized testing, a movement she promotes in almost daily posts. (more…)

Will New Hampshire be Arne Duncan’s test case for the next generation of accountability in American education?

If you had any doubt about New Hampshire’s preeminent role in the national discussion about the future of American education, this piece in Education Week – the education policy publication of record – will put it in perspective for you.  The article gives an accurate picture of the status of the State’s efforts to gain federal approval for the PACE pilot program that strives to replace standardized tests with personalized student projects.  However it comes out, the waiver proposal is credible in Washington, D.C. and watched closely around the country because NHDOE and the districts have put years of hard thinking into coming up with better ways to help students learn. (more…)

NH’s new way to assess student learning could reduce standardized testing – Bill Duncan in the Concord Monitor

A national debate has broken out about standardized testing.  Everyone seems to agree that the over-testing driven by No Child Left Behind has been a mistake.  The question is, what now?  New Hampshire has for years been piloting a next generation approach to testing and has a lot to offer in this discussion. (more…)

The future of New Hampshire public education unfolding before our eyes

I attended a very interesting meeting at Sanborn Regional High School last week.  School district leadership from Sanborn (Kingston/Newton), Epping, Souhegan (Amherst and Mont Vernon) and Rochester were planning their joint efforts on a project called PACE – Performance Assessment for Competency Education.  (more…)