Prohibit Implementation of Common Core (HB 207, 2017)

Testimony by Ann Marie Banfield, Cornerstone’s Education Liaison

My focus is on parental rights, academic excellence and literacy. I come here in support of HB 207 but with changes to the proposed language.

This bill modifies RSA 193-E (Adequate Public Education), however I believe the reference to RSA 193-C (State Ed Improvement and Assessment Program) since that is what is driving the implementation of Common Core at the local level.

By modifying RSA 186:8, I, the effort to limit the State Board of Education’s rule-making authority on academic standards appears to miss the need to address RSAs 186:8, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII and VIII. Those sections of RSA 186:8 are used to force schools to implement Common Core in order to be approved schools, force teachers to be trained in the Common Core way, force school administrators to have Common Core “qualifications in order to be certified,” force Common Core as a requirement to receive advanced teaching credentials and force high school students to prove they’re “competent” in the Common Core standards. This legislation is too important not to cover all areas of current law in order to make the changes parents have been demanding.

There have been other attempts, in the past, to change New Hampshire law in order to remove Common Core in New Hampshire. It’s become such an important issue nationwide that it was mentioned several times by candidates for governor and president.

This bill should include all national standards, including The Next Generation Science Standards, that some Common Core supporters have criticized for having bigger problems than the math and English standards.

I have presented information in the past on the flaws with the standards and in the interest of time, links are listed below that address the problems and why they need to be replaced.

While The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Association (NGA) are professional associations of governors and state superintendents, the “states” never developed the standards.

The Common Core required accountability based on state standards and tests, so Washington did have a role in overseeing the “implementation” of the standards. What is tested for accountability purposes is what is supposed to be taught. It has been deceptive to say, curriculum “is created by districts and states.” The curricula created are heavily influenced by Common Core, especially the math section since it pushes specific content. Since the federal government selected and funded two consortia of states to create national tests – the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and the Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – what gets tested, gets taught.

The $4.35 billion Race to the Top was the primary tool used to coerce states into adopting Common Core. No Child Left Behind Waivers followed in order to coerce states into continuing to facilitate Common Core and the other education reforms.

ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) also includes language that says Common Core cannot be coerced, but we can see that coercion has already occurred. Federal law has had prohibitions against federal influence over curriculum for decades, but that didn’t prevent federal influence during the Common Core reform.

ESSA requires State Departments of Education to present the U.S. Secretary of Education with standards, testing, and accountability plans for approval. That “approval”places parameters on statewide testing; and will demand interventions in the worst performing schools, among other things.

These standards were rushed through with claims that were unsubstantiated. In New Hampshire only a handful of people knew what was going on. Legislators weren’t familiar with Common Core and hadn’t heard about it. Parents never heard of Common Core and didn’t realize it was going to dominate the curriculum. Local school board members were not notified, nor did they take votes on implementing the standards.

A few of us were asked to review the draft standards before they were released and adopted, but no one in the room, (or at the public hearing before the State Board of Education), compared the draft or the final version to academic standards that were currently in place in states that had received accolades for being the best in the country. States like Massachusetts showed students scoring at the top in the nation. We had proof that if implemented properly, Massachusetts’s standards elevated academic outcomes. Unfortunately that was never discussed or promoted under the prior administration or the Commissioner. What Washington D.C. prescribed was facilitated by the New Hampshire Department of Education with no questions asked or analysis done.

Where was the proof Common Core would work? This was one big experiment on our kids and required critical thinkers to challenge the federal bureaucrats. Instead the New Hampshire Department of Education facilitated the education reforms and dismissed parental concerns that ultimately led many parents to pull their kids out of the public schools.

What are some of the glaring problems among the long list that has been identified?
I’ve included expert opinions at the end from content experts, early childhood professionals and others who have the credentials to judge these standards.

Some of the bigger and most cited problems include:

1) Standards are developmentally inappropriate for young children

2) Math standards put children on a path to Algebra I by 9th grade instead of 8th grade. This puts them at a disadvantage for completing the necessary higher level classes in order to qualify for STEM programs at colleges and universities.

3) Pre-calculus and/or Algebra II, Trigonometry: have some key missing topics

4) No Pre-Calc or Calculus standards and a few Trig standards

5) In ELA, Common Core requires to split teaching time between informational and literary texts to about 50-50 in K-8 and 70-30 in 9-12. This is a pedagogical/curricular directive.

6) Close Reading without reference to background

7) Dictates pedagogy and curriculum: It insists on knowing four specific ways to add and subtract. 1.OA.6

8) The geometry standards require using a very particular pedagogical approach (which, incidentally, is experimental and has a track record of failure).

9) Algebra II: Missing components needed for Calculus

10) Algebra 1: Missing components needed for Algebra 1 or beyond

For these reasons, I encourage you to vote ought to pass on HB207 with the additional changes I have suggested for the language.

1) The commonly criticized Common Core State Standards have received another rebuke from college instructors and workplace supervisors. In a national survey, more than 9,000 respondents said they don’t believe the top-down standards provide the skills needed for college or a career.
2) Report: Requiring kindergartners to read — as Common Core does — may harm some
3) Diane Ravitch blog : Eric Brandon Explains the Origins of “Close Reading” in Common Core :
4) Dr. Sandra Stotsky, member of the Common Core Validation Committee’s statement on why she opposed Common Core ELA
5) Missing, Delayed or Muddled Topics in Common Core Math by Dr. James Milgram, member of the Common Core Math Validation Committee
6) Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative
7) WARNING PARENTS: Here Comes “Junk Science” Standards For Our Schools
8) West Virginia Bill H.B. 2774