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Common Core debate continues at State House

Senior Political Reporter

February 20. 2014 6:36PM

CONCORD –  The House Education Committee Thursday wrapped up its two-part public hearing on legislation that would terminate the state's participation in the Common Core Educational Standards program, listening to continued emotional testimony on both sides.

The bill would direct the state Board of Education to “terminate all plans, programs, activities and expenditures relative to the implementation of the Common Core State Educational Standards which have been adopted or may be adopted by the state board, including any assessments and instructions based upon such standards.”

New Hampshire is among 45 states that have adopted Common Core.

The committee is expected to vote on a recommendation on the bill for the full House in early March.

Michelle Levelle of the conservative New Hampshire Liberty Alliance told the lawmakers the Common Core standards are unfair to children on each end of the spectrum – those with special needs and gifted students.

But Dr. Mark Joyce, representing the New Hampshire School Administrators Association and the New Hampshire Special Education Administrators Association, disagreed, saying Common Core “sets rigorous controls and standards, but the ultimate control remains with the school boards and communities.

“They can change them to address particular needs,” he said, such as those of gifted students.

When one lawmaker suggested the possibility of amending the bill to set up a commission to study how the standards mesh with local control, Joyce said it was “not necessary because local board have full control now,” under Common Core, “to establish higher standards if they choose.”

A commission that could impose a state standard, he said, “would be a violation of the local control principle.”

Heather Gage of the state Department of Education said that if the bill passes, local communities would still have the authority to implement or continue with Common Core, but her agency “would not be allowed to help them in any way in terms of implementation.”

Ann Marie Banfield of the Cornerstone Action group said Common Core Standards were “officially adopted by 'unelected' members of the New Hampshire Board of Education in 2010.”

She said there was no prior analysis of Common Core Standards versus state standards, which, she said, “were considered the best in the country.” If the state's participation in Common Core ends, she said, “the New Hampshire Department of Education can begin the work of setting the best standards for our children and finding ways that set teachers up for success.”

Rep. Mary Stuart Gile, D-Concord, who chairs the education committee, said that currently, local school districts are not mandated to adopt Common Core and can adapt them to their own needs.

“Yet,” she said, “this bill is asking us to tell all school districts that adopted these standards not to implement them and those who have not yet done so, not to adopt them.”

She questioned how that reinforces local control.

Pittsfield schools Superintendent John Freeman said that Common Core fits his district.

“If we were totally insulated and self-contained we'd be happy with the state standards, but with the kids coming in and out, I'd much prefer the higher standards of Common Core,” he said.

Martha Spaulding of Salem favored ending Common Core, however, calling it “nationalized top-down criteria that will make school boards a rubber stamp” for the federal government.

New Hampshire mother Kelly Roy said the standards are “not rigorous,” and “many states have had to water down their own standards to come into line” with Common Core.

“This is an over-reach of the federal government and would remove local control because there would be no need for it,” Roy said. “Children do deserve better but Common Core is not that better.”

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