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Manchester's tests: Stuck in Common Core


Officials in Manchester’s school district, where a large portion of students continues to struggle academically, wanted to come up with academic standards that were more challenging than Common Core’s. The state says, sure, you can do that, but you cannot opt out of the Smarter Balanced tests, which are based on the Common Core standards. Now they tell us.

The Smarter Balanced tests are replacing the NECAP tests, starting this year. NECAP tests were developed by New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont to measure student performance. A response to No Child Left Behind, they replaced a previous state-developed standardized test.

For the last decade, New Hampshire has been gradually pushed away from state standards toward national ones. Along the way, the pressure on school districts to meet higher standards has increased. Yet with each step, local control has been diminished.

Parents are told that Common Core is not a top-down approach to education. They are told that schools will get to choose their own curricula. They are told that it is all about raising academic standards. Who could be against higher standards? But parents are learning that these not-so-high standards are more controlling than they had been led to believe.

Manchester has found that whatever its own standards and curricula turn out to be, it still has to give its students the Common Core test. Ipso facto, Manchester’s curricula must be tailored to the Common Core or its students will post low test scores. If Common Core standards were definitively more rigorous than the ones they are replacing, and were developed with greater input from parents and local and state leaders, there might be little concern. But the city must now switch to new tests and new standards that are of questionable rigor, and which were developed elsewhere and forced on the district. It is easy to see why so many people are not pleased with this supposed advancement.

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