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Push for two-year Common Core testing delay gets pushback at hearing

Union Leader Statehouse Bureau
February 11. 2014 6:12PM

CONCORD — Proponents and opponents of the Common Core State Standards squared off again at a legislative hearing on Tuesday, this time focusing on a bill that would force a two-year delay in implementation of the standardized test associated with the education benchmarks.

Republican Rep. David Murotake, sponsor of HB 1432, told the House Education Committee that 75 percent of teachers like the new standards, but an equal number worry that the related test, known as Smarter Balance, will begin in 2015 before the students and teachers are ready.

“It is true that a strong majority like the CCSS,” he said. “They like the idea of a national standard that raises the bar, but on the other hand, an equal majority does not feel that they are ready in their school.”

Murotake, who also serves on the Nashua Board of Education, stressed that his bill would delay the testing, but not the implementation of the standards.

“I believe the Common Core State Standards should move forward,” he said, “and given enough time and resources so that we can improve them and they can live up to their dream.”

Other lawmakers spoke in support of Murotake’s bill and took advantage of the opportunity to express their opposition to the Common Core.

“It’s time for the state Board of Education to step back, see how everyone else is doing, and then decide how to move forward,” said Democratic Rep. John Kelley of Nashua, referring to the other 44 states that are implementing the nationwide standards.

Board of Education Chairman Tom Raffio urged the committee to kill Murotake’s bill and two others designed to either delay or terminate the state’s participation in the national initiative, warning that such measures could cost the state $100 million in federal funding and a waiver exempting it from requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

“This bill can potentially really damage public education in New Hampshire,” he said.

Scott McGilvray, president of the National Education Association in New Hampshire (NEA-NH), with 16,000 members, said opponents of Common Core should be working to improve the program, not upend it.

“This bill, along with many others introduced this legislative session, does not bring any solutions to what we should all be discussing,” he said, “which is setting high standards for our students and preparing them for a 21st education and career.”

Laura Hainey, president of the American Federation of Teachers with 7,000 N.H. members, came to testify in support of delaying the Smarter Balance testing for at least another two years.

Both the NEA and AFT support the standards but want to delay the testing. McGilvray said that such a delay is best dealt with at the national level, not in the New Hampshire Legislature.

Democratic Rep. Mary Heath of Manchester, retired dean of education at Southern New Hampshire University and a former deputy commissioner for the Department of Education, reminded lawmakers that states are required by law to administer a standardized test each year to selected grades.

The New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), which has been used, will not be available in 2015 and beyond.

“This bill says that for the next two years, contrary to federal law and jeopardizing millions of federal education funds, there will be no summative assessment of any kind given in New Hampshire,” she said. “It does not just prohibit the Smarter Balance; it prohibits any annual test at all ... This bill will turn education back 30 years.”

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