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Nashua board moves ahead with Smarter Balance test

Union Leader Correspondent

May 13. 2014 8:50PM

Despite concerns about the Common Core assessments tests and how it could affect students and the general direction of education, the Board of Education voted 7 to 2 against delaying the start of the testing for two years.

“I think we can all see that this is inevitable, that this is going to come about,” said BOE member William Mosher. “To sit around this horseshoe and try to figure out ways to wiggle out of it is futile.”

Board members Sandra Ziehm and David Murotake, vocal opponents of the Common Core standards and the Smarter Balance assessments tests, voted for the delay. The tests are scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015.

“I believe Smarter Balance is not what’s best for our kids,” said Ziehm. “It circumvents local control and the process has not been inclusive.”

Ziehm said other states have provided options and alternatives to Common Core-based testing and she questioned why New Hampshire wasn’t also offering school districts another choice.

“I think it speaks poorly of our state,” she said.

Ziehm also said the test contradicted the district’s mission to accommodate student diversity.

“The test makes no provision for diversity, it’s one size shoe fits all,” she said.

The board has considered similar proposals over the past six months, but the idea of a delay has always been voted down. This time, board members had a legal opinion from Attorney Stephen Bennett to help them with their decision.

According to Bennett, all New Hampshire schools are required to participate in an annual statewide assessment test, and while some students are allowed to opt out of testing for various reasons such as health problems or family emergencies, there is no opt out avenue for school districts.

Bennett said the one exception would be school districts on the border where students may attend schools in other states. Those students would be allowed to use another state’s assessment test in place of the Smarter Balance tests.

Bennett also said that Nashua could possibly jeopardize state and federal funding by voting to delay the tests.

“Because you are the second largest school district, it would almost force the state to take action,” Bennett told board members.

Vice Chairwoman Kimberly Muise and board member Dotty Oden both said they agreed with many of the issues raised by Ziehm, but they chose not to support a delay because of concerns that it could have damaging consequences for the district as a whole.

Bennett did tell board members that the state would be likely to listen to their concerns about the tests, particularly because those concerns would be coming from the state’s second largest district.

Murotake said Bennett’s opinion, which was packed with case law, was helpful in understanding how to frame and express opposition to certain state laws and mandates.

“If you think about the wording of this motion and the law, it leaves open the door for other wording that might accomplish the same thing,” he said.

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