Hopefully, the Department will stop bullying the other school districts as well.
The Department never held a single Public Hearing on the proposed Smarter Balanced Assessments. It’s not surprising that many school board members, principals and teachers are opposed to them, including some in Nashua.
Read more from NH Families for Education here
Refusing to Administer Smarter Balanced Assessments does NOT Jeopardize State Funding: “[Manchester] School district to receive millions withheld by state”
By TED SIEFER
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER – City officials have prevailed upon the state Department of Education to release millions of dollars in federal funds that they say the agency withheld over the school district’s efforts to opt out of the Smarter Balanced assessment test.
Manchester Superintendent Debra Livingston said DOE Commissioner Virginia Barry told her, without elaborating, that the funds would be made available.
“I just got a call that the money is being released,” she said Wednesday. “That was the extent of the conversation.”
Livingston wrote a letter to Barry earlier this month expressing concern that the district had only received $460,000 out of $4.2 million in anticipated federal reimbursements so far this school year.
“The district has received information that the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) may not be remitting or processing the District’s grant funds/applications over concerns about the District’s anticipated noncompliance with the administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment,” Livingston wrote. “The District is very concerned that failure to timely remit or process such grant funds/applications could have serious financial consequences for the District and more importantly its students.”
The letter was copied to the governor, top legislative leaders and the state’s entire Congressional delegation.
Barry did not return several phone calls last week.
Livingston wrote the letter at the urging of Mayor Ted Gatsas and with the full support of the school board.
Gatsas has steadfastly maintained that the state DOE assured him the district would be able to implement its own assessment test as part of a broader effort to develop its own curriculum as an alternative to the Common Core State Standards.
The Smarter Balanced test, set to be administered statewide in the spring as the successor to the NECAP test, is aligned with Common Core.
Common Core has been assailed by conservative activists as an attempt by the federal government to impose unsound and ideological standards on local school districts. A growing number of parents and teachers across the country also have criticized the standards and their implementation.
Gatsas said he would insist on getting “in writing” the commitment from the state DOE to release the federal funds to the district.
The decision may weaken one lever of control wielded by the state DOE in the standoff over Smarter Balanced: the roughly $21 million in federal funds the district receives annually to support a wide array of programs aimed at assisting low-income students and struggling schools.
Manchester, the state’s largest school district, is now poised to be one of only a few to not participate in the Smarter Balanced assessment in the spring.
The move is likely to further exacerbate the rift with state education officials, who have long lamented the district’s comparatively poor performance on statewide assessments and higher than average dropout rates.
In place of Smarter Balanced, district officials are considering using an assessment test developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), a Portland, Ore.-based company that has provided consulting services to the district in the past.
“The NWEA is very broad-based,” Livingston said. “It’s very similar to Smarter Balanced.”
At the same time, Livingston said should the district go with a NWEA assessment, some adjustments to the newly implemented Manchester Academic Standards would likely be in order. Test scores could suffer as a result, she said, at least the first time the assessment is administered.
In any case, she said, “Any kind of testing right now is to establish a baseline to see where we’re at.”