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NH House votes continued support for common core education standards

Staff Report
March 26. 2014 3:10PM

CONCORD – The New Hampshire House of Representatives Wednesday killed or set aside for study a series of bills aimed at delaying or terminating the state’s participation in the controversial college and career readiness standards program known  common core.
The action on five common core-related bills by the House brought to an end, at least for this session of the Legislature, the continuing emotional debate over the issue.

The House rejected, 201-138, House Bill 1508, which would have terminated state participation in common core. Sixteen Republicans joined 185 Democrats in the majority, while three Democrats joined 135 Republicans on the losing side, in favor of ending the program.

The House Education Committee had recommended that the bill be killed on a vote of 13-6, but Republican common core opponents tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the program as federal government intrusion in local education decisions.

Forty-five states have implemented common core standards, but opponents contended support is waning nationally.

They pointed out that earlier this week, Indiana became the first state to withdraw from , common core, with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence saying students “are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level.” They also noted that the National Education Association has been critical of how common core has been implemented in many states and the New York state teachers union withdrew its support for the program in January.

Common core supporters said Wednesday that despite charges to the contrary, the program core is not a mandate and is instead a set of standards that local school districts are free to accept or refuse.

Education committee Chairman Mary Stuart Gile, D-Concord, said the bill, by requiring the state Board of Education to terminate the program, would, if passed, “represent the ultimate in state government control of New Hampshire school districts and education.”

Rep. Ralph Boehm, R-Litchfield, said the program was administratively implemented without legislative approval and legislation that would have required the state Department of Education to seek legislative approval was passed by the House but was tabled by the state Senate in 2011.

Calling it “madness,” Boehm said, “We do not need to lower our standards, which is what is going to happen.”

Rep. Patrick Bick, R-Salem, called it “the federal government taking over local education,” asking sarcastically, “What could go wrong?”

Citing what he called the failures of previous standards programs, Bick said, “It seems to me the more federal government involvement, the lower  our scores go.”

Rep. Laura Jones, R-Rochester, said school curricula are in fact tied to the standards because each student must take the statewide assessment test known as Smarter Balance.

She said common core “takes parents out of the equation.” While school officials “always say they want more parent involvement,” she said, “common core leads to less.”

But Gile said employers in key fields requiring expertise in science, technology and mathematics, are finding a lack of local applicants for jobs and U.S. Students, which formerly led the world are falling behind students in other nations.

“Common core is not a curriculum,” she said, “They are a set of rigorous expectations for New Hampshire students.”

Rep. Chris Muns, D-Hampton, a member of the Winnicunnet area school board, said common core standards are “clearer, more focused, require deeper learning and require more from our students than any previous standards.”

But, he said, common core also allows each school district to choose its own books and curricula to meet the guidelines.

Also Wednesday, the House:

- Killed, on a vote of 183-124, House Bill 1239, which would have required the state Board of Education to report on the fiscal impact of implementing the common core standards and would have prohibited the board from implementing any new common core standards until it performs a fiscal analysis and conducts a public hearing in each Executive Council district.

Education committee chair Gile said the cost of the fiscal analysis required by the bill would ultimately be borne by the local school districts.  She also said a public hearing in each of the council districts would cause “serious logistical problems” because of the size of the districts.

But Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, said the bill “is about open and transparent government.”

And, he said, “If public hearings are impractical and a nuisance, then shame on us.”

Gile said standards have existed in New Hampshire education “at least since 1965,” and President George H.W. Bush introduced national standards through the “Goals 2000” program.

-  Sent to interim study, on a vote of 203-117, House Bill 1262, which would forbid making public  or shared with the federal government any “personally identifiable data” about students or their families.

- Voted 183-150 to further study House Bill 1432, which calls for delaying implementation of the Common Core-related assessment program, Smarter Balance, while the Department of Education conducts a study.

The DOE study would determine whether Smarter Balance “fulfills the aims, assessment tasks, criteria” and whether it “generates data for the established goals” of Common Core.

- Voted 210-123 to send to study House bill 1496, which mandated that student assessments must be completed in a way that can be “objectively scored” and may not contain tasks that “subjectively measures or surveys a student values, attitudes or disposition.”

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