January 20, 2015
Senate Education Committee
SB 101, An Act prohibiting the state from requiring implementation of common core standards.
Chairman Reagan and members of the Committee,
The first section of the bill prohibits the state from requiring the implementation of Common Core state standards. This changes nothing. It only clarifies existing law.
Why is this necessary? Because there has been, and continues to be, a substantial amount of misinformation being fed to, and even intimidation of, district school boards with regard to the adoption of Common Core.
I spoke before the Alton School Board back in 2013 about Common Core standards. In that discussion, which included Department of Education Director Heather Gage, it was disclosed that districts are not obliged to adopt Common Core standards. Moreover, she assured the Board that no state funding would be lost if a district elects not to adopt these standards.
A month or so later this same discussion came up before the Manchester School Committee. Superintendent Livingston warned her school board that state funds would be in jeopardy if Common Core was not adopted. It was only after the videotape from the Alton school board meeting was brought to the attention of the Manchester board that this issue was clarified. Mayor Gatsas was quite angry and immediately called the Commissioner to express his displeasure with the lack of transparency over the adoption of these standards.
Has this confusion stopped? No. Many superintendents in other districts are still pushing school board members and suggesting that state funds are at risk if Common Core is not adopted. This bill resolves this confusion and makes it clear, once and for all, that no funds would be lost if a district elects not to adopt Common Core.
The second section of this bill defines Competencies as “student learning targets that represent academic concepts, skills, and knowledge within a single content domain, such as English / language arts and reading, mathematics, science, social studies, art, language, health, or physical education.”
What does this do? It restores traditional educational practice. The Department recently took it upon itself to implement competency-based education, without statutory authority, based upon its controversial definition of “competencies”, which does not focus upon academics concepts, skills and knowledge and may span multiple subject areas.
Ed 306 Definition:
“Competencies” means student learning targets that represent key content-specific concepts, skills, and knowledge applied within or across content domains
Why is this necessary? Because the General Court has rejected competency-based education. This bill, SB 101, simply restores the status quo until this legislature authorizes any change.
By way of history, Sen. Stiles introduced legislation in 2011 and 2013 seeking to establish a commission to develop strategies towards the implementation of competency-based education. Both of these Senate bills failed in the House.
SB 192, establishing a commission to identify strategies needed for delivering a 21st century education
----5/25/2011 H Inexpedient to Legislate: MA RC 273-105
SB 82, establishing a commission to identify strategies needed for developing and implementing a competency-based public education system.
-----5/21/2013 H Inexpedient to Legislate: MA VV
Next she went before the state Board of Education, instructing them to implement competency-based education anyway, bypassing the will of her colleagues in this legislature.
The change towards competency-based education is substantive. It unconstitutionally downshifts significant costs onto our districts. But most importantly it proposes to transform our schools in opposition to the will of our elected representatives.
If this change is to be made, let it be re-introduced into this legislature and successfully passed before it is implemented without thought or concern for its cost or its effect in our schools and on our children.
Until then let our schools focus on academic concepts, skills and knowledge. Students should not have to worry about multiple subjects at once, especially in the primary grades. It’s demoralizing for a youngster to be marked down when trying to describe why 2+2=4 because his language skills can’t adequately deal with a concept which is cognitively beyond his developmental ability.
Let students master one subject at a time and receive positive reinforcement for that important mastery. This bill does not prohibit districts from creating multi-disciplinary projects for their students. It’s been done for decades before competency-based education.
Nothing is forced on the districts with today’s bill. It simply resets the norm for districts that choose not to adopt Common Core and don’t want Common Core surreptitiously implemented in their schools.
We should not say on the one hand that Common Core state standards are voluntary, while on the other hand force districts – through competency-based education – to implement Common Core without the legislature revisiting and approving this issue.
January 22, 2015
Dear Senators' Reagan, Stiles, Avard, Kelly and Watters,
My name is Sue O’Connor, I live in Rochester and have served on the Rochester School Board for 2 terms. I am not speaking for the board itself, but what I have experienced during my tenure. Aside from the calls I receive by those who elected me, I have first hand knowledge of how poorly written and convoluted the curriculum associated with CCSS truly are. I have grandchildren in K, 3rd, 5th and 7th grades. The fact is CCSS was pushed on the state and then the districts with the usual carrot and stick. The problem with this, like most things in the educational community the standards, which require a curriculum were produced in great haste. This is seen in the daily illogical assignments children throughout this country and state have to struggle through. I urge all of you to research the development of CCSS yourselves. Do your own leg work and do not rely on the hearsay of others.
To date, Common Core is destroying the education system of the United States. Basic knowledge of this great country is slowly being eliminated. As time goes on our children and grandchildren will not know or understand how this great country came about. Immigrants taking citizenship exams know more about this country than what is now being taught in our schools, how sad is that? When I was growing up math was math. The idea that we now have “new math,” “reform math” or even “fuzzy math” teaching our children abstract thinking in the elementary schools is ludicrous. Children need to have the basics explained to them and very rudimentary methods in order to build “higher order thinking”. Why are private citizens the likes of Bill Gates, actually having a say in our education system? Why is the Federal Government attempting to take away local control of our schools? If you cannot answer these questions, as an elected official, then shame on all of you.
Rochester is in the midst of Competency Based Education, which is formerly known as Outcome Based Education. This was a failure and removed from schools decades ago. How quickly we forget the lost generation from that fiasco, now there will be yet another lost generation. It is important to understand that Competency Based Education and CCSS are all tied together with obtaining a waiver for NCLB. It is also mandatory if a district is attempting to obtain a waiver from Smarter Balanced Assessment.
As a community, we were not ready whatsoever to have this thrust upon our teachers or our students. As a board member and taxpayer, the community was lied to with regard to competencies. I have been made aware that teachers who questioned the competencies and did not let the issues drop were removed from the development committee. Is this not why we have teachers on a committee, for their opinion?
Our children who excel are now bored, unmotivated, and suffer from mediocrity. There is absolutely no “rigor” to the competencies and I have seen the work from 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades and, in my opinion, it is substandard. There is less work performed now than previously. No homework, children can redo work and assessments again and again and again. This is a practice in the middle and high school. Adults know that they cannot make the same mistakes again and again and again and expect to have a job. Why teach our children that way?
A lack of responsibility has reared its ugly head on the part of some teachers, administrators, and students. An example of what is being taught in our schools in 6th grade ELA: For a 6th grade class’s first book report one must COLOR four pictures and label the pictures. For the record this is how book reports are still being done in the 7th grade. This may be rigorous for the students who struggle, but insulting to those who do not. Those who are pushing Competency Based Education do not tell parents that “success” for all children means “success” in demonstrating only the dumbed-down outcomes that the slowest learners in the class can attain. Competency Based Education means “success” in mediocrity rather than excellence, as a true competency is precise and complex and needs to constantly be reviewed and updated. There is no funding for special programs for our gifted children.
Competency Based Education is based on the fact that the student has “mastered” the material. Most research/opinion papers/point papers are based on the fact that Competency Based Education had been implemented in the post-secondary education setting, with a major influence in the health science field, as competency based education takes into account life skills the learner needs and the demands of the workplace. Given the age of the students who will be subjected to Competency Based/Outcome Based Education, if they have not “mastered” the material in the elementary grades what “life skills” will they be bringing to their future employer?
In elementary grades, Competency Based Education does not teach children essential reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, but pretends to teach them “higher order thinking skills” instead. Competency Based Education ignores the obvious fact that one cannot engage in higher order thinking until one has some facts to think about.
All of you should be asking, “Where is the replicable research or studies that show that this works?”
I have advised many families to either home school or remove their children from the topics they find offensive and to opt out of testing. I do this because the child is the most important part of the equation that politicians seem to forget about. It is our children’s education that politicians are spinning the roulette wheel on and it is our children who are losing. I am asking you to please support SB101.
47 Walnut Street
Rochester, NH 03867
January 21, 2015
Dear Senators' Reagan, Stiles, Avard, Kelly, and Watters,
My name is Kathy Dunton, and I live in Rochester, NH. I attended the Education Hearing for SB 101 yesterday. I didn’t speak, as I have never been to a Hearing before and wasn’t sure how it worked. That being said, I do have a few things to say about this Bill. I am in favor of this Bill. I am a member of the Rochester School Board. I am NOT speaking on behalf of the Rochester SB, but instead on behalf of over 1800 parents, teachers and taxpayers that elected me. And I am speaking for the parents that open their kid’s backpacks and pull out age and grade inappropriate assignments. When I ran for SB last year, I had 1 issue. That was Common Core and local control. CCSS had been quietly implemented over the last few years in my district. There was never any official vote held. It just happened. The person who formally sat in my ‘At Large’ seat had been on the SB and a House Rep for over 16 years. She also sat on the Education Committee in the House. She is a proponent of CCSS and whom I directed my questions to when I began to attend SB meeting in 2012. I never got actual answers to my questions.
So I researched and wrote to the papers and blogged about what I had learned. I found that no one knew anything about CCSS in my area, not even the teachers. What they did know was that as new students’ workbook and text books were shipped in, ‘Common Core Aligned’ was appearing on the covers.
At the same time that this was happening the district began to implement a new grading system known as ‘Competencies’ in the high school. Again, this wasn’t anything that the teachers or parents had ANY input on. It was just implemented coming down from the federal and the state government. Competencies has been a nightmare as they have now been implemented in the middle and elementary schools as well. The only time anything positive is said about this latest fad passing through our educational system, is within the walls of a SB room, by the few people in charge of giving the teachers their new teaching assignments. Teachers have been told to play ball, or else. They are afraid. Students and parents are frustrated for all the reasons that were spoken of during the hearing yesterday. The big issue here is that CCSS is a top down educational reform that was put into place by non-educators and business and big government elite, not by any elected officials.
No one that has pushed this through our state and into our school districts has been elected. During the last year that I have been on the SB, I have all but been told that we have to implement the standards, and take part in the Smarter Balanced Assessments or the state will cut off our Title One grant, which is $1 million dollars. That kind of feels like extortion or blackmail. The only ones that benefit from these assessments are the testing companies that gather all kinds of personal data, which is another can of worms. I shudder to think of how many teaching positions we will have to cut in order to pay for this testing within our budget.
So this is why I am asking you to support SB 101. We don’t have local control. We can say we do, but CCSS and the SBAC was pushed down into the districts by the appointed, NOT by the elected. Bringing our much needed tax dollars back into our districts, should not be held with strings attached. Again, I am speaking for the people of Rochester that asked me to stand up for them, once they realized that hadn’t been happening.
52 Old Dover Road
Rochester, NH 03867