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Feds approve N.H.’s new school accountability plan



Monitor staff
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The U.S. Department of Education has approved the state’s new accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal law that succeeded No Child Left Behind.

“New Hampshire’s plan met the requirements of the law, and so I am happy to approve it,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “This plan should not be seen as a ceiling, but as a foundation upon which New Hampshire can improve education for its students.”

ESSA was passed by Congress in 2015 and hailed as the end of NCLB’s test-and-punish regime. It did not, however, actually change how much testing is required: Schools still need to administer standardized assessments in third through eighth grade, and once in high school. But it did give states more flexibility in deciding which schools need to report, what the goals are and how schools get flagged as struggling.

Under NCLB, which was passed in 2001, schools were expected to reach 100 percent proficiency by 2014 – a standard too high for just about every school in America. ESSA instead asked states to set goals that were “reasonable” and “ambitious.”

By 2025, the state’s ESSA plan expects 74 percent of New Hampshire’s students to score proficient in English and almost 54 percent to score proficient in math. It also expects a nearly 94 percent graduation rate.

The plan also incorporates new “college and career readiness” indicators. Schools will be scored depending on how many students fulfill at least two of nine requirements aimed at showing they’re ready for what comes after graduation. Those requirements include completing a N.H. Scholars program, getting a passing score on an AP or International Baccalaureate exam, or earning a career technical education credential, among others.

“This plan embodies the expert thinking of our classroom teachers, as well as engaging a broad range of community stakeholders in the success of our students,” Frank Edelblut, the state’s education commissioner, said in a statement.

Some schools, those in so-called “PACE” districts, are exempted from testing as often as other schools through the state’s Performance Assessment of Competency Education pilot program. New Hampshire’s federal waiver to continue its PACE experiment is separate from ESSA approval.

The state will also ask the federal government for another waiver to implement House Bill 166, which was signed into law last year by Gov. Chris Sununu and was intended to let all districts administer fewer tests.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)