If you think Common Core and Smarter Balanced assessments have disrupted your child's education in public schools, just wait for the federal education reforms coming as result of the NCLB Waiver Renewal that was just submitted. The NH Commissioner of Education has received approval from the federal government to design a totally new assessment program and she needs the green light from the NH legislature.
But wait, parent's heads haven't stopped spinning from the last round of reforms from the first Waiver. The Smarter Balanced assessments haven't even been fully implemented and here we go again.
However, the legislature is having real difficulty enabling the Commissioner's new assessment plan because there are very few details available. It's not fully designed or developed and it's never been tested. Parents and legislators can't review the program in any detail. Yet, certain legislators -- Sen. John Reagan (R), Sen. Nancy Stiles (R) and Rep. Rick Ladd (R) -- are falling all over themselves to pass this legislation, giving the Commissioner a blank check to work with Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education to "further develop" this new "system of assessment and accountability."
Why are parents concerned?
Proponents claim this new PACE pilot program will help reduce over-testing of students. That's not true. PACE does not reduce over-testing of students. Thirty weekly PACE assessments, based upon the same Smarter Balanced protocols, are not less testing than one annual Smarter Balanced assessment ... even using Common Core math.
Proponents claim that this new PACE program will provide locally-designed assessments. That's not true. PACE is not a locally-designed assessment. Districts have to adopt Common Core and Competency Based learning to be approved by the State to participate in this PACE program. Districts must then develop these "locally-designed" assessments by working Regionally with other districts and non-profit groups. Districts must use the same Smarter Balanced protocols when developing their "locally-designed" assessments and the results must be approved by the State. Districts can't even grade their own "locally-designed" assessments. These assessments must be Regionally graded based upon State Graduation Competencies, which were never authorized by the legislature.
And if that's not enough, parents won't be able to refuse 30 weekly assessments as they can with the one Smarter Balanced end of the year assessment. Not only are there 30 times more assessments to refuse, but under Competency Based learning, which is required by PACE, students won't be allowed to progress from week to week or graduate at the end of the year without successfully completing every Competency.
The proposed amendment to HB 323, which can be found below, abdicates Legislative authority to the Commissioner of Education in lines 7-11 and eliminates government that is open, transparent and accountable to the people.
The NH Commissioner of Education is not an elected position. Commissioner Virginia Barry refuses to listen to the people, especially when they disagree with her. The Commissioner has publicly complained that her opponents are "loud and misinformed." In fact, the Commissioner recently refused to meet in public with the largest school board in the state, Manchester, after they repeatedly asked for her to come and answer their questions about Smarter Balanced assessments. The Commissioner recently refused to hold any public hearings on the proposed Waiver Renewal before she submitting it to the federal government even when faced with two bills requesting a public hearing. In fact, the Commissioner posted a Survey Monkey on the Department website rather than publicly listen to the people's concerns.
There will be no loss of federal funds without enabling legislation for this PACE program. There is no urgency to pass HB 323 if it is bad legislation. Districts will simply continue to administer the Smarter Balanced assessments and parents can refuse to allow their children to participate if they feel the assessments are not in their child's best interest.
PLEASE contact the NH Senate. ALL of the Senators, not just the Education Committee.
Tell the Senate not to pass HOUSE BILL 323 if it gives the Commissioner of Education unlimited authority to cut a backroom deal with the US Secretary of Education. Do not abdicate legislative authority to an unelected Commissioner who does not listen to parents. Parents need a voice in the education of their children.
You can also use this e-mail address and your e-mail will be sent to ALL of the NH Senators: Senators@leg.state.nh.us
Or you can contact them individually:
Jeff Woodburn (d)
Jeanie Forrester (r)
Jeb Bradley (r)
David Watters (d)
David Pierce (d)
Sam Cataldo (r)
Andrew Hosmer (d)
Gerald Little (r)
Andy Sanborn (r)
Molly Kelly (d)
Gary Daniels (r)
Kevin Avard (r)
Bette Lasky (d)
Sharon Carson (r)
Dan Feltes (d)
David Boutin (r)
John Reagan (r)
Donna Soucy (d)
Regina Birdsell (r)
Lou D'Allesandro (d)
Martha Fuller Clark (d)
Chuck Morse (r)
Russell Prescott (r)
Nancy Stiles (r)
Sen. Reagan, Dist. 17
Rep. Ladd, Graf. 4
April 20, 2015
Draft Amendment to HB 323
1 Amend RSA 193-C: 6 as inserted by section 1 of the bill by replacing it with the following:
3 193-C: 6 Assessment Required. Each year, a statewide assessment program designed to yield
4 specific data to use in identifying and improving instruction and learning shall be
5 administered in all school districts in the state [
in grades 3 through 8 and one grade in high school]
6 as follows: reading/language arts in grade 3, mathematics in grade 4, and both
7 reading/language arts and mathematics in grades 6, 8, and 11. If approved through a
8 federal education waiver, the New Hampshire department of education shall further
9 develop criteria for an application and approval process that will allow school districts
10 that meet certain readiness criteria to participate in a local system of assessment and
11 accountability. All public school students in the designated grades shall participate in the
12 assessment, unless such student is exempted, or provided that the commissioner of the department
13 of education may, through .an agreement with another state when such state and New Hampshire
14 are parties to an interstate agreement, allow pupils to participate in that state's assessment program
15 as an alternative to the assessment required under this chapte1·. Home educated students may
16 contact their local school districts if they wish to participate in the statewide assessment. Private
17 schools may contact the department of education to participate in the statewide assessment.
18 Nothing in this section shall include the use of a well established, curriculum-based
19 college readiness examination of academic achievement, such as the College Board SAT as
20 the high school assessment.