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My Turn: Anti-Common Core legislation would be a big step backward

Tom Raffio, Northeast Delta Dental CEO

Tom Raffio, Northeast Delta Dental CEO

The education of New Hampshire students is critically important to the company I lead, Northeast Delta Dental. This is why I am involved in every way I can be, currently as chairman of the New Hampshire Board of Education and of the New Hampshire Coalition for Business & Education.

The Department of Education and New Hampshire teachers have been working with what became the Common Core state standards since I joined the state board in 2007. I voted enthusiastically for the new standards when they were completed in July 2010.

Now, as chairman, I have the opportunity to speak with teachers all over New Hampshire about how the new standards are working in their classrooms. I hear wide acceptance and appreciation for how important an accomplishment the Common Core has been.

Simpler. Clearer. More focused. “Now we have the opportunity to help each student make the most progress she can.” These are the kinds of reactions I receive.

Melissa Keenan, assistant superintendent at White Mountains Regional School District, testified to the House Education Committee that, “In 2010, when we adopted the Common Core state standards, we were a district in crisis.” Now the district’s results are much improved and the Common Core is “challenging our students to read and write critically across the curriculum (and) research an argument that is well supported.”

White Mountains Regional has accomplished this at very little cost.

Pittsfield Superintendent John Freeman spoke for the superintendents I previously spoke with when he said at a recent Education Committee hearing, “We are engaged in continuous improvement, and we just integrated this latest upgrade in standards into our normal course of standard operations.”

Despite these great successes at low cost, five separate bills in the New Hampshire House seek to reverse the gains we have made in these last years.

I am aware of the controversy surrounding the standards and the difficulties some states have experienced while implementing them in a way that benefits children. That is why I am all the more proud of our accomplishments in New Hampshire.

There is no question about the quality of the Common Core standards themselves, but a lot of the opposition may come from a fear of the new test. People have heard that our new Smarter Balanced Assessment is “high stakes,” like similar tests in New York and other states.

But other states’ experience is not a forecast for New Hampshire. We have avoided those mistakes.

Our Department of Education negotiated the best No Child Left Behind waiver in the country. With the support of the Legislature, our teachers, their unions and our superintendents, the waiver allowed us to implement the new standards and the required annual assessments in a way that supports teachers and learning.

We have avoided the high-stakes approach taken by other states.

In the first two years, there is no federal requirement that the annual tests play any role at all in teacher evaluation. After that, while student performance must be part of the evaluation in Title I schools, the annual assessment need only be a minimal part of that performance assessment. These kinds of decisions continue to be left to the local school districts.

Our student data will not be at risk either. New Hampshire leads the country in protecting student data. While the new test creates no new risks, Rep. Neal Kurk of Weare, author of existing privacy protections, has worked with the Department of Education on a bill to update existing law to reflect new data security realities. I hope this effort gets strong bipartisan support.

Like other major New Hampshire companies, Northeast Delta Dental relies on New Hampshire public education at all levels. We require critical thinkers who can engage our customers in a literate and confident way and solve problems that require strong foundation knowledge and a range of math, statistical and writing skills. With the adoption of the Common Core standards, New Hampshire companies can be confident that our educators share that goal.  

Northeast Delta Dental applauds the dedicated work of our New Hampshire educators in putting these improved standards to work in the classroom for our students.

It would be a blow to New Hampshire companies and to New Hampshire public education if any of these anti-Common Core bills were to become law.

(Tom Raffio is president and CEO of Northeast Delta Dental in Concord.)

Legacy Comments4

Common Core is the same as the ACA. A promise of a great idea that nobody has a clue about. Very similar in many ways, the great idea is just accepted with the carrots that are put out there, yet no chatter about cost, tests scores and the fact that if you cannot teach the basics, it is a bit of a stretch to state that the implementation of CC is not going to be an issue, and another experiment with our education system just might go the way of all the other great experiments we have tried with education. We all know how they have turned out. Teach the basics, then when ya have that down, new experiments will be welcomed. Any changes to anything should not be made with a wide brush stroke. better to address each issue and work on them individually. Big changes almost always fail. And the cost of those changes is usually triple what is quoted.

This teacher's on the fence. I like some of what Common Core does - but I in no way feel that this is some magic bullet for our education system. I've taught long enough to see one initiative after another come down the pike. This is no different. It's not evil. And it's definitely not the be-all, end-all.

A couple of points in response to kargiropolis: Re: "wide acceptance": Here (http://anhpe.org/category/teachers/nh-teachers/ ) are many New Hampshire teachers out. Re: U.S. DOE, I assume you mean NHDOE, which has been providing extensive information on the Common Core since at least 2009 when it organized hundreds of New Hampshire teachers to provide feedback as the standards were developed (http://wp.me/p2OKqy-1hH). And NHDOE and NEA-NH provide extensive training. NHSBA has taken no position either way on the Common Core You misstate the NEA position. Dennis Van Roekel and his union continue to be strongly supportive of the Common Core NEA is actually trying to get other states to act more like New Hampshire. ( http://wp.me/p2OKqy-1x0 ) BAT is important in other states - states that have made the high-stakes mistake. Some other states are indeed making a mess of their Common Core implementations and those teachers and parents and legislators are reacting legitimately to those errors. But New Hampshire has one of the best Common Core implementations in the country (http://wp.me/p2OKqy-1ub). As head of the State Board of Education, Mr. Raffio should be proud of it.

Mr. Raffio is largely out of touch with teachers if he thinks there is "wide acceptance", and one has to wonder when these conversations took place, because at no time did the U.S. DOE provide a clear and transparent presentation of CC. Former Gov. Lynch signed NH on to the program, which is still a "working document" and subject to change. Consider this: the NH School Board Association has cautioned the NH DOE about the impact that the implementation of CC will have on local districts; the NEA is finally speaking against it - a 180 degree turn from their support for it (http://bit.ly/1fF0fFk); and 39,000 teachers are organized for action against CC from BAT (http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/). Will Mr. Raffio also listen to them?

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