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OPPOSE HB 1239, relative to certain terminology in the education statutes.

The Senate Education Committee will vote shortly on HB 1239, an act relative to certain terminology in the education statutes.

In the description below language enclosed in brackets is [ text that should be removed]; text to be added to the bill is marked with CAPITALS.

This bill undermines local control of academic standards, local determination of curriculum and even grade placement of students. What appears to be minor changes in language could seriously impact our schools if this bill is not amended or killed outright.

** The first problem can be found on page 1 of the bill, line 6 under RSA 186:8 gives the state Board of Education Rulemaking Authority over:

*********** [I. Academic standards for all grades of the public schools.]************

This language needs to be removed. Based on the proposed definition of “academic standards” this bill authorizes the state Board of Education to determine “what a student should know and be able to do at each grade level.”

Setting “minimum standards for public school approval” sets the bar for instruction provided at each public school. This ensures an opportunity for an adequate education. That’s required under the Claremont decision.

But setting “standards for each grade level” allows the state to not only decide whether students should be placed at a particular grade level, or promoted, but it also allows the state to set the goals, targets or academic standards for each grade. Those are currently determined locally within the district. This language tramples local control.

** The next concern is on page 2, line 15, section II. The following language needs to be added to the bill:

************PERFORMANCE ON STATEWIDE ASSESSMENTS SHALL NEVER
BE USED FOR GRADING OR PROMOTING STUDENTS. ************

The purpose of statewide assessments is to measure school performance. These assessments determine whether state money given to a district, not a student, is being used appropriately. A statewide assessment determines whether a school, not a student, is performing adequately. The Claremont decision did not authorize the state to evaluate individual students, only schools or districts.

** The third issue can be found on page 3, line 29, section V. Existing language needs to be restored as follows:

************ACADEMIC STANDARDS SHALL [The frameworks do] not establish
a statewide curriculum.************

Districts need to keep the existing protection against a statewide curriculum being created by the State, this time using “academic standards.” This existing language safeguards local control and must not be eliminated.

** Finally, on page 4, the two new definitions need to be adjusted as follows:

(b) "Academic standard" means what a student should know and be able
to do at each grade level **********IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:
ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS AND READING; MATHEMATICS; SCIENCE;
SOCIAL STUDIES; ARTS EDUCATION: WORLD LANGUAGES; HEALTH
EDUCATION: PHYSICAL EDUCATION; AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION
AND INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES. STUDENT
GRADE LEVEL SHALL BE DETERMINED BY THE LOCAL DISTRICT,
NOT BY THE STATE. *************

“Academic standards” need to be restricted to academic areas of study, not dispositional or behavioral concerns. Also, we need explicit language guaranteeing that “student grade level shall be determined at the local district, not by the state.”

(c) "Curriculum" means the lessons and academic content taught in school
or in a specific course or program, *******THE METHOD AND MEANS OF
INSTRUCTION, AND THE RUBRICS OF GRADING. ***********

The definition of “curriculum” must include “the method and means of instruction, and the rubrics of grading” in addition to “the lessons and academic subject content taught.” Where’s the local control of instruction if teachers are told how to teach, “the method and means of instruction, or how to grade their students, using a state approved rubrics of grading? Currently teachers are the final arbiters of a student’s grade. The state needs to stay out of the existing teacher / student relationship. Allow our professionally trained teachers to determine the method and means of instruction and their own rubrics of grading.

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