NH Commissioner of Education Interferes with the Right of Parents to OPT OUT their Child from Statewide Assessment, Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Department of Education is deliberately trying to confuse parents by withholding information so districts can intimidate parents into allowing their children to take the Smarter Balanced assessments.

The NH Commissioner of Education sent out two Technical Advisories to school districts, informing them about the district's participation requirements for the statewide assessment, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

The Commissioner incorrectly suggests that parents must meet one of these six onerous and restrictive exemptions in order to remove their child from testing:

All students in the designated grades shall participate in the assessment unless the student is exempted." 

1. Medical emergency/serious illness

2. Severe emotional distress

3. Death in the family

4. Student qualifies for the NH Alternate Assessment but enroll after the start of the assessment window

5. Student who participates in another state’s assessment system

6. Exemption from ACCESS for ELLs® for student taking the NH Alternate Assessment

That is false!  Parents can refuse to allow their children to participate.

The Commissioner continues in her explanation to districts, claiming that parents can't "opt out" of the assessments, because "standards are neither courses or materials." 

This is not accurate since assessments are, in fact, "materials" and these "assessment materials" may be objectionable to some parents; thus parents may opt out of objectionable assessment materials.

Here's the Commissioner's first Technical Advisory:



On January 13, 2015 updating her technical advisory with an ADDENDUM, the Commissioner acknowledged that there were NO laws under which the Department of Education could  PENALIZE parents or students who refused to take the statewide assessments.

The Commissioner essentially acknowledges that parents may OPT OUT their children from the Smarter Balanced assessment WITH NO PENALTY.



However, that might cause problems with, i.e. lower, participation rates if parents were allowed to pull their children.  So the Commissioner sent out a second Technical Assistance directive telling districts that "There is no "opting out" option for students in the law" --- encouraging districts to intimidate and bully students who attend schools during the assessment period --- even if their parents attempt to opt their children out. 

The Commissioner has no respect for the right of parents to direct the education of their children, including opting out their child from assessments they find objectionable. 

The right of parents supersedes any statute.  The Commissioner's legal advice to districts is inaccurate and may, in fact, result in lawsuits for district .


There is no penalty for parents who refuse to allow their children to take the Smarter Balanced assessments.  In fact, Manchester and Nashua School Districts have adopted policies that respect the right of parents to opt out their children from the Smarter Balanced assessments.

If parents want to opt out from, or refuse to allow their child to participate in, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they may use the following REFUSAL FORM. 

No one specific form is needed (parents may simply write to their school principal), but one is included for your convenience.

Parents across the country are pulling their children from the Smarter Balanced Assessments.


Attached (below) is a Refusal Form which can be printed out, signed and submitted to your school principal's office.  Parents may OPT OUT or REFUSE to allow their child to take the SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENTS which will be given starting in the Spring of 2015.

Parents may OPT OUT their child from any assessment or survey. Simply adjust the form.




I, _______________________________________________________, am indicating to school

       (Parent / Guardian name)


administration that my son/daughter, ______________________________________________,

                                                                                        (Child’s name)


In grade _________ is refusing to participate in the administration of the Grade 3-8 and 11


Smarter Balanced Assessment.


I understand that if my child is in school during the testing days, they will be brought to an alternate location with supervision for the duration of the testing period.  No alternate assignment will be provided.  Students should bring a book to sit and read during that time.


Parent / Guardian Signature __________________________________Date _________________


Please return the signed form to the appropriate school’s Main Office.  Thank you.


Why would parents want to OPT OUT?


In the Spring of 2015 New Hampshire public schools will administer the Smarter Balanced Assessments to students in grades 3 – 8 and grade 11. 

Parents may OPT OUT or REFUSE to allow their children to take this assessment and there are many good reasons WHY A PARENT SHOULD OPT OUT:

·      Behavioral Assessment:  Smarter Balanced Assessments include psychological questions, which measure student’s disposition -- his values, attitudes and beliefs, not just his academic abilities.

·      Privacy Concerns: Smarter Balanced Assessments are online assessments that send private student information and answers directly to the SBA Consortia and then to the US Department of Education.  There is no timeline established to erase any of this private student information, which may then be shared and sold for research or marketing to corporations -- without parental consent.

·      Adaptive Assessments:  No two assessments are alike because the test adapts to the individual strength or weakness of each student.  Practically speaking, it’s impossible to compare scores when all students are taking different assessments.

·      Secrecy:  Students and teachers are asked to sign a confidentiality statement, promising not to talk about or share any assessment information.  Parents have not been allowed to review and inspect these assessments in violation of federal law.

Click on attached file below for a printable form:

NH Families for Education is Seeking Legal Statements -- Upholding Parental Right to Refuse Objectionable Assessments

Parents are being told by school administrators that their written requests to Refuse or Opt-Out their child from the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessments are not valid. This is false. It's deliberate intimidation of parents and it must be stopped!

NH Families for Education is looking for a few good attorneys to write statements, upholding the well established right of parents to direct the education of their children, including the refusal of a school administered assessment. Parents have refused to allow their children to take assessments for years in New Hampshire.

This is a well established tradition, one that the NH Department of Education has documented and tracked. "Parent Refusals" can be verified on the NH Department of Education's own website:


NH Families for Education would like to help stop these efforts to isolate and intimidate good parents, acting in the best interests of their children. As such, NHFFE is looking for legal statements that can be shared with parents in their fight to protect their children.


The "Conclusion" of a  51 page paper -- "Arne Duncan's NCLB Waiver ILLEGAL" by Derek W. Black, which is attached at the bottom of the article:

     With no more power than the authority to waive noncompliance with NCLB, Secretary Arne Duncan achieved a goal that educational equality advocates had long sought, but never secured: the federalization of public education.  His path to the "holy grail" of education, however, was fundamentally flawed.  He only reached it by imposing waiver conditions that were neither explicitly nor implilcitly authorized by the text of NCLB. Thus, he exceeded  his statutory authority and violated the Constitution's clear notice requirements regarding conditions on federal funds.

     States only acceded to these new and unforeseeable terms because their impending non-compliance with NCLB put so much at stake financially, practically, and politically.  By the time Secretary Duncan announced the conditions, states were out of options and left in a position where the Secretary could compel them to accept terms that, under most any other circumstances, they would reject. The administration took the states' vulnerability as an opportunity to unilaterally impose policy that had already failed in Congress. In doing so, the administration unconstitutionally coerced states.

     An explict grant of conditional waiver power could have cured some of these problems, but not all. To have justified conditions as broad as Secretary Duncan's, the statute would have had to either explicitly authorized the types of conditions Secretary Duncan imposed or explicitly grant him an open-ended authority to condition waivers. The former is implausible because Congress does not possess perfect foresight. The latter is unconstitutional because it would not have been constrained by an intelligible principle. It also would have granted the Secretary a power broader than any other previously approved by the Court.

     The import of this analysis reaches far beyond education. An agency power to remake the law through statutory waivers may be a useful and efficient mechanism for adapting laws to changing circumstances and needs. Congress can, and likely will, explicitly extend this authority to some agencies in the future. But as the experience of NCLB's conditional waivers demonstrates, conditional waiver power, if not carefully circumscribed, is fraught with practical and constitutional dangers. It has the potential to give agencies a power that exceeds that of legislation under which the agency is acting. The executive can unilaterally achieve ends that neither it, nor Congress could have achieved through negotiated legislation, including bringing states futher under the regulation of agencies than the organic statute the agency is waiving. In these respeccts, conditional wiaver authority can threaten the balance of powers Constitution secrues between states and the federal government, and between Congress and the executive. Thus, it is no surprise that the NCLB waiver process helped spark a series of bitter legal fights at all branches of local, state, and federal government, with Congress suing state legislature and vice versa over the Common Core Curriculum, and teachers and students suing states over changes to teacher evaluation and retention rights. Next in line is a direct challenge to the Secretary of Education's authoirty to impose and enforce the conditions it exacted in exchange for an NCLB waiver. This Article provides important guideposts for resolving that dispute.



HB 206 - Requiring Parental Consent for EVERY non-Academic Survey and Questionnaire

HB 206, relative to non-academic surveys or questionnaires given to students, will be voted on by the Senate Education Committee very shortly.

This is the "Parental Consent" amendment that many parents are supporting:

"PARENTAL CONSENT" Amendment to HB 206

Amend RSA 186:11, IX-d as inserted by section 1 of the bill by replacing it with the following:

                        IX-d.  Require school districts to adopt a policy governing the administration of non-academic surveys or questionnaires to students.  The policy shall require school districts to notify a parent or legal guardian of a non-academic survey or questionnaire and its purpose.  The school district shall make such surveys or questionnaires available, at the school and on the school or school district's website, for review by a student's parent or legal guardian at least 10 days prior to distribution to students.  The policy shall also require a parent or legal guardian to provide consent prior to the student’s participation in the non-academic survey or questionnaire either in writing or electronically.  In this paragraph, “non-academic survey or questionnaire” means surveys, questionnaires, or other documents designed to elicit information about a student's social behavior, family life, religion, politics, sexual orientation, sexual activity, drug use, or any other information not related to a student's academics.


ACTION NEEDED: Please remind the Senate Education Committee that HB 206 must protect the rights of parents by requiring CONSENT in the same manner that CONSENT is required for each and every school field trip.  There can be no EXCEPTIONS!

It was reported that the non-registered lobbyist from the Department of Health and Human Services, who testified at the public hearing on Tuesday, has been talking to the Senate Education Committee about adding an amendment to HB 206 in order to EXEMPT his department's "NH Youth Risk Behavior Survey" from the restrictions of this bill.


There can be NO EXCEPTION for "NH Youth Risk Behavior Survey" any more than there can be an EXCEPTION for "special" field trips, for instance, to the NH Statehouse. 

The same liability is involved in each and every instance and, as such, requires Parental CONSENT for each and every NON-ACADEMIC SURVEY or QUESTIONNAIRE.

REMEMBER: There is NO loss of funds to the district should parents opt out their child from these surveys or questionnaires. There is only a loss of funds if the district decides against taking the grant money and against administering the survey or questionnaire.

Parents have the right to protect their children while attending public schools. 

Be respectful, but politely tell your state Senator that HB 206 must be amended to protect PARENTAL CONSENT.


David Watters (d)       Dover

Molly Kelly (d)            Keene

Kevin Avard (r)         Nashua

John Reagan (r)       Deerfield

Nancy Stiles (r)             Hampton

Be sociable, share!

STOP Regionalization of NH Public Education: Kill Senate Bill 190


REGIONAL NETWORKS operating under their state Departments of Education is the  governance structure, which the federal government favors to replace the traditional decentralized and independent SCHOOL DISTRICT

See article below on 'Education Innovation Clusters' Aim to Improve Schools REGIONAL NETWORKS emerging across U.S.

Consider this bill to expand vocational tech training into REGIONAL programs under the NH Department of Education:


Please tell them to VOTE AGAINST REGIONALIZATION in Senate Bill 190

The NH Senate VOTES tomorrow, Thursday, March 26th at 10 am on Senate Bill 190:

SB 190 relative to payment of costs for REGIONAL career and technical education center programs and administration by the DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, and establishing a tax credit against business profits taxes for donations to such centers.

This bill expands the size and scope of career and technical education programs administered by the Department of Education.

  • Regional education programs operating directly under the Department of Education undermine the well established NH principle that education is better controlled locally by parents and taxpayers.

  • Instead of creating or expanding state level programs, the state should allow local districts to more freely work with each other, with private businesses and organizations, and iwth a range of education providers, to make the choices that best fit the needs of local students and taxpayers.

Please warn your state Senators that SB 190 is a dramatic shift in how our public education system is currently governed.

Please help protect REPRESENTATIVE local governance of public education !

Be respectful, but politely tell your state Senator that Regional governance of public education is unacceptable!


Jeff Woodburn (d)      Dalton

Jeanie Forrester (r)     Meredith

Jeb Bradley (r)           Wolfeboro

David Watters (d)       Dover

David Pierce (d)          Etna

Sam Cataldo (r)          Farmington

Andrew Hosmer (d)     Laconia

Gerald Little (r)         Weare

Andy Sanborn (r)       Bedford

Molly Kelly (d)            Keene

Gary Daniels (r)         Milford

Kevin Avard (r)         Nashua

Bette Lasky (d)         Nashua

Sharon Carson (r)    Londonderry

Dan Feltes (d)           Concord

David Boutin (r)      Hooksett / Manchester

John Reagan (r)       Deerfield

Donna Soucy (d)      Manchester

Regina Birdsell (r)     Hampstead / Windham

Lou D'Allesandro (d)   Manchester

Martha Fuller Clark (d)   Portsmouth

Chuck Morse (r)            Salem

Russell Prescott (r)       Kingston

Nancy Stiles (r)             Hampton

Be sociable, share!



'Education Innovation Clusters' Aim to Improve Schools
REGIONAL NETWORKS emerging across U.S.
By Michele Molnar

"Education innovation clusters"—regional partnerships among school districts, research organizations, private companies, and other groups to improve schools—are evolving in cities and regions around the world, but so far their work has been mostly insular, seldom shared beyond a local geography.

But that parochial approach for sharing lessons learned is changing, fueled by a rising demand for knowledge about what is and is not working to improve schools, especially around digital teaching and learning. Although cluster designs vary, they are largely focused on identifying breakthroughs in learning technologies, use of research on learning, and the development and acceleration of new educational tools and approaches, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

To help coordinate and accelerate the growth of education innovation clusters, Washington-based Digital Promise, an ed-tech advocacy group, announced this month that it is designing a network that will share lessons learned in these hubs with schools in the United States and abroad.

Map: Tracking Education Innovation Partnerships

"The idea is to amplify and coordinate the activities of different entities with the eye to come up with better tools, better policies, and better practices," said Steven Hodas, a practitioner-in-residence at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. He was hired by Digital Promise to lead a study on the impact of education innovation clusters.
Pooling Assets

An education innovation cluster, Mr. Hodas said, is an approach that people in a city or region can use to pool talents, perspectives, and assets to tackle challenges that are facing schools, and usually features one organizing entity such as a school district or university working with partners to provide support and services to schools. They often start informally and evolve into more structured efforts over time. In addition to the 14 U.S.-based clusters, five other countries have active educational innovation hubs.

Clusters tend to differ based on the needs of schools in a given area and the organizations that support them. Usually, a cluster includes researchers, ed-tech companies, universities, investors, developers, and foundations or nonprofits. They can originate with a clear ed-tech focus, as has happened in Boston with LearnLaunch and Baltimore with EdTech Maryland. Another place they can start is in universities' graduate schools of education, such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia.

Or, school districts can be the organizing force, as occurred in the New York City schools with the iZone, and is now happening in Nashville, Tenn., where the school district is working with Alignment Nashville, which has built a framework for developing community schools.

"It's not necessary for the district to be the convener for teachers, schools, and students to benefit," Mr. Hodas said. But when a district is the convener, he said it adds "political capital," because it signals from top leadership that addressing the district's challenges in innovative ways is a high priority.

"The point of all this is to help school leaders make better decisions about the tools they're bringing into classrooms," said Katrina Stevens, the senior advisor for educational technology at the Education Department, who will be working with Mr. Hodas as he studies the clusters.
Promising Ideas in Pa.

Last August, Digital Promise convened the 14 U.S.-based clusters for a meeting in Pittsburgh, which is considered home to one of the most mature innovation hubs, said Sara A. Schapiro, the director of Digital Promise's League of Innovative Schools, a national coalition of 57 districts. Pittsburgh's cluster includes about 200 organizations coordinated by the Sprout Fund, a nonprofit that has invested about $1.3 million in 100 innovative learning projects and programs since 2009.

"The best clusters we've seen are where all the community partners are working together to support the teaching and learning that's happening in districts," said Ms. Schapiro.

Cathy Lewis Long, the Sprout Fund's founding executive director, said more than 50 Pennsylvania school districts take part in the cluster's activities.

"A lot of people said, 'What's happening? What's in the water there?'" joked Ms. Long. "There's been so much transformation in the area's school systems."

Two of the districts—the rural South Fayette Township schools in McDonald, and the suburban Elizabeth Forward schools in Allegheny County—have become widely known for trying innovations within the cluster and sharing their findings with districts nearby and across the United States and around the world.

For instance, a building for grades 3-5 that recently opened in the 3,000-student South Fayette district has been specifically designed with curriculum innovation in mind—a first floor features an environmental curriculum focus for 3rd graders, a second floor highlights earth and space for 4th graders, and a third floor has a dedicated robotics area for 5th graders, said Bille Pearce Rondinelli, the superintendent of the South Fayette schools. That's just one way this rural community is helping its students develop skills that will prepare them for college and careers.

To Bart Rocco, the superintendent of the 2,700-student Elizabeth Forward schools since 2009, innovation became an imperative when he realized students needed to be engaged in learning in different ways. "We were losing some kids as dropouts, and losing others that enrolled in cyber charters," he said.

A grant to establish a "gaming academy" with help from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh was the beginning of the quest to move the use of technology to a higher level in schools. Elizabeth Forward agreed to pilot programs, such as eSpark's iPad app, which school officials say helped boost scores for kindergartners, and 1st and 2nd grade special education/Title I students, an average of 25 percentile points in reading and math after a semester. The district also redesigned the high school media center to feature recording studios, performance spaces, mobile devices, and a coffee shop.

"We wanted to create an environment to make school 'cool' again," said Mr. Rocco, "and provide a structure where [students] could think about their future."
Speeding Up Development

Richard Culatta, the director of the office of education technology at the federal Education Department, said improving lesson sharing among clusters can help scale "what works" much faster. "If you're building a tool or an app and your whole team is three people, and you're doing this on the side while you're teaching or whatever, the idea of running a three-year randomized controlled study doesn't make sense," he said. "We need to show how that can be accelerated."

Ms. Stevens added that having a connected-cluster structure could be instrumental in developing a methodology so experimental trials could be conducted in different parts of the country, providing "data that has some rigor to it, so the information will be meaningful."

Companies that work with clusters might find it easier to try out their products with participating schools, but Mr. Hodas cautioned that "it would be a mistake for a company to look at this just as an opportunity to pilot.

"For all these participants, the question they need to ask is not just, 'What can I get out of it?,' but also, 'What can I learn?,' " Mr. Hodas said.

Ms. Schapiro said an eventual outcome of Mr. Hodas' research will be the creation of a "playbook" that will explain the workings of clusters, and another convening of all the clusters and interested parties.

"We don't want to be prescriptive, that it has to be this type of community partner that's coordinating a cluster," she said. What is important is that "a school district remains at the center of what they're doing, and that all activities center on driving teaching and learning."

Deciding how to measure outcomes will be one of the goals of Mr. Hodas' research.

"Right now, there's not a lot of systematic ways of thinking about outcomes" in an education innovation cluster, he said. Identifying a cluster's primary goals is a first step in that work, and it will help formalize what gets measured.

Ultimately, the clusters could have widespread impact, though. While the greatest benefits accrue to those who participate in the cluster, when the information is shared through a network of interested parties—like the Education Department or the League of Innovative Schools—"any school can benefit," Ms. Schapiro said.

Coverage of trends in K-12 innovation and efforts to put these new ideas and approaches into practice in schools, districts, and classrooms is supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York at www.carnegie.org.

Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

Why Parents Should OPPOSE NH Commissioner of Education's 2015 NCLB Waiver Proposal

The NH Commissioner of Education, Virginia Barry, is proposing a new No Child Left Behind Wavier Renewal.  It will be submitted on March 31st, yet Barry only revealed this Waiver to the Legislature and the public on March 16th.

Why wasn't it released earlier so the Legislature could discuss and debate the details?

Why wasn't a public hearing scheduled so parents could have a voice in what will happen in their public schools?

What is proposed in this Waiver that should concern parents even further than the lack of transparency for the development process?

Parents can refuse to allow their child to participate in the end-of-the-year statewide assessment, Smarter Balanced.  In fact, 54% of Manchester's Memorial High School students scheduled to take the Smarter Balanced assessments .... refused this assessment.

Under the 2015 NCLB Waiver Renewal, parents will no longer be able to refuse these Common Core aligned assessments. 

A new program, called Performance Assessment Competency Education (PACE) will replace some of these statewide assessments with weekly PACE assessments. This program is also aligned to the Common Core.

The Smarter Balanced weren't even fully implemented and the State no longer believes it will be an effective assessment tool?   Why does the Commissioner favor this new PACE program as opposed to the old Smarter Balanced assessments that districts spent millions of dollars preparing for this year? 

Parents won't be able to refuse 30 weekly PACE assessments that are interwoven into the classroom routine.  Parents can refuse a single end-of-the-year Smarter Balanced assessment, but they won't be able to refuse the PACE assessments because a student can't graduate without "demonstrating proficiency" on each and every "State GRADUATION Competency" in the PACE program.

Why is this provision, regarding State Graduation Competencies, included without Legislative approval? 

How much will this program downshift to our districts when students don't graduate from one grade to the next based upon "competencies"?

How much will this program downshift to our districts in terms of professional development and new classroom materials?

Included in this program are the Next Generation Science Standards, which are essentially Common Core standards with a less controversial title.  There was no public hearing or debate on these Next Generation Science Standards.  Why was that?  Who is the Department hiding from?  Parents?

How can the State adopt these Science standards into the PACE program without Legislative Approval?

The previous No Child Left Behind Waiver ushered in Common Core, Smarter Balanced, and many other untested reforms. But it only lasted for two years

This Waiver Renewal will last for four years, locking our students into new unproven assessment programs.

This Common Core aligned PACE program is being promoted by the Department of Education as a way to"restore Local Control."

Local Control?  How is it Local Control when the Department must "approve" which district is allowed into the PACE program and the Department must "approve" the "locally" designed  assessments which are created under this program with "Regional" assistance?  Even the scoring of the assessments requires Regional scoring.

And what is Competency Based Education? Why hasn't the NH Legislature ever debated and voted on Competency Based Education?

Does the Department rule over the people and their elected representatives in the Legislature as well as our locally elected School Boards?