Addressing NCLB: HB 1413 & HB 1517 (2012)

Cornerstone Action supports HB 1413 and HB 1517. While both bills address the federal No Child Left Behind program, we’d like to encourage the Committee to consider the following testimony when determining the merits of each bill submitted.
No Child Left Behind was another federal program that attempted to improve public education through a top -down approach.  While I believe some good has come from NCLB, I also believe the problems outweigh the positive effects.
NCLB essentially forces public schools to meet “state” academic standards.  In states like California and Massachusetts, where academic standards were considered some of the best in the country, the argument can be made that students would benefit from schools following state standards.
Unfortunately for New Hampshire students, that simply was not the case.    Last year, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute analyzed each state’s education standards and gave New Hampshire a C and a D in English language arts and math, respectively.  Students meeting “proficiency” in New Hampshire were at “C” and “D” levels in two of the core subjects.
What some people involved in education are now figuring out is that if you set minimum standards, you will find schools working to meet just those minimum standards.   This has caused an increase in the need for tutoring services in New Hampshire.
For instance, in Bedford, the proficiency levels show many students are meeting proficiency or above.  What those scores cannot tell you is the number of students enrolled in private tutoring services.  Because the school aligned its math curriculum with the state standards at a “D” level, the school district is now using a math program that aligns to those math standards.   Parents are seeing their children are not mastering the basic foundation in the core academic subjects and are having to turn to outside tutoring services.
After speaking at length to an employee at Sylvan Learning Centers in Bedford, she confirmed that a large number of Bedford students are enrolled in their math tutoring program.  The employee also acknowledged that prior to the change in math programs, Sylvan did not (nor did it need to) offer math tutoring in Bedford.  It was because the school aligned its curriculum to the math state standards that many children are now in need of these services in order to obtain the quality math education their parents expect.
Parents who are frustrated are oftentimes ignored.  It took two years for parents in Hollis to successfully remove one math program, only to find out the school chose a replacement that many felt was only a slight improvement.  Why? Because the school is no longer accountable to parents when they have no control over the funding.  The school is accountable to NCLB regulations.  NCLB is the regulation that offers or denies funding to the school districts.  Those who control the funding have the loudest voice in public education.
We support legislators weighing in on these important decisions that have a significant impact on local communities and public education.  We believe that the people should  have a voice when it comes to accepting or rejecting any federal programs that have no track record of success.  While one bill addresses the need for legislative approval and one for the elimination of NCLB, we see merits to both bills that are being presented.
We ask that you use your best judgement on each bill and support any efforts to minimize or eliminate the negative impact NCLB has had on the public schools in New Hampshire.
— Ann Marie Banfield for Cornerstone Action