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NH waiver: SAT wins out over Common Core

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 09. 2015 10:20PM

CONCORD — New Hampshire has been granted an additional year of flexibility from portions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), opening the door for 11th-graders in the state’s public schools to take SAT college admissions tests next spring instead of a controversial Common Core-based exam.

Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, juniors in public high schools will take the SAT instead of the controversial Smarter Balanced Assessment test. The SAT, which cost $56 to take this past school year and required a four-hour block of time on Saturdays for students at testing sites, will replace the Common Core-based Smarter Balanced for high school juniors, and will be taken during the school day. The cost will be covered by the state’s Department of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education gives waivers from parts of NCLB to qualified states that develop plans that close educational achievement gaps among students and improve the quality of instruction.

Late last week, New Hampshire was given one additional year of flexibility from NCLB. Federal education officials said in a news release the state “updated its student-level data-collection system to provide educators with user-friendly information in a timely manner,” and developed the New Hampshire Network, allowing teachers across the Granite State to share best practices and seek advice from each other. Arkansas and Arizona received one-year renewals along with New Hampshire, while Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi and Wisconsin received three-year waivers.

In all, 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have received flexibility from NCLB to support improved achievement in schools.

Reform plan

New Hampshire Education Commissioner Virginia Barry, Ph.D., said the state has developed a comprehensive reform plan that moves New Hampshire toward the goal of providing every student with a high quality education that prepares them for college and career.

“We are implementing a comprehensive, collaboratively designed plan to ensure student success and a continued commitment to college and career readiness for every student, Barry said in a statement. “These new systems build on the effective parts of NCLB to protect our most under-served students, and will help to deliver on our promise of high achievement for all students.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said “the last six years have seen dramatic progress for America’s schoolchildren.”

“The high school dropout rate is down, and graduation rates are higher than they have ever been,” Duncan said in a statement. “As a result of our partnerships with state and district leaders to couple flexibility with reform, we are seeing remarkable strides and bold actions to improve student outcomes.”

Redesigned SAT

College Board Chief of Assessment Cyndie Schmeiser said the SAT will be administered beginning in spring 2016.

“The redesigned SAT measures the few things research shows matter most for readiness, and reflects what students are learning in classes across the Granite State,” she said in a statement.

Changes to the exam include a focus on areas of math that affect college and career readiness, a move away from “obscure” vocabulary words to use of relevant words in context, and elimination of the penalty for guessing.

State Department of Education officials have spent the last year looking at the impact of using the College Board SAT for its high school statewide assessment requirement.

“Through this work, it was determined that students and parents would greatly benefit from this one-day, rigorous assessment to better understand if a student is ready to continue their educational aspirations,” Barry said.

New Hampshire officials have included the Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) pilot in its waiver. The pilot is a two-year study with a limited number of districts of a system of assessments offering greater accountability at the local level.

According to information provided by College Board spokesman Zach Goldberg, “the redesigned SAT measures the few things evidence show matters most for college and career readiness, and better reflect what students are learning in class. The exam is designed to be focused, useful, and clear for students.”

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