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My Turn: New Hampshire should opt out of ‘Smarter Balance’ school tests

Re “No need to delay new school tests” (Scott McGilvray, Monitor Forum, March 15):

Not only should the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium tests be delayed, but New Hampshire should join the eight states that have opted out altogether.

New Hampshire school superintendents are capable of implementing perfectly good existing state-developed tests, such as the Stanford Achievement test. Alternatively, we could have the University of New Hampshire create our own tests without the interference of the federal government. Kansas, for instance, had its state university devise a set of tests that will test the standards of English and math and nothing else.

Promoting the use of Smarter Balance ignores the results of the teachers’ experiment at the Nashua Middle School, which showed that the Smarter Balance tests are developmentally inappropriate for our children in the lower and middle-school grades.

Common Core state standards were developed in 2009 and adopted by New Hampshire in the summer of 2010 when parents and teachers were away on vacation. The federal government pressured New Hampshire to adopt the Common Core before the end of August 2010 in order to qualify for federal funds. This action is illegal as federal money cannot be used to control or direct education in the K-12 grades.

Since there was little time to solicit public opinion; parents and legislators did not get the chance to review the Common Core standards before they were hastily adopted. So much for local control of K-12 education.

Scott McGilvray, president of the state chapter of the National Education Association, wrote that “every day we see the results” of implementing Common Core in our schools. What specifically are the results, and where is the data to prove these claims?

I asked state education officials for the research that proved the efficacy of the Common Core to achieve the outcomes that the proponents expect. I have not received such proof. That is because Common Core is another flawed educational theory that has not been tested on a pilot basis before it is inflicted on our entire nation of K-12 children.

Since the U.S. Department of Education was created in 1978, our children have had to endure the failed educational theories promoted by the federal government. They include Whole Language Learning, Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind. Common Core is the next flawed theory. Since 1978 our K-12 educational standards have gone from No. 1 in the world to No. 9 today. Parents need to reject Common Core to prevent our next group of K-12 students from being guinea pigs for the next flawed federally promoted set of educational standards. We need to teach our children to be better citizens, not better test takers.

The NEA along with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have all received millions dollars in grants over the past five years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote Common Core. The Gates Foundation is the chief financier of the standards, which were developed by a private think tank in Washington, D.C. The governors association and school officers group were asked to validate these standards to give the appearance that the standards were “state led.” This is because the Constitution does not give the federal government the right to direct or influence K-12 educational standards.

Local control of school standards has been, since the public school system was implemented in America in 1845, about teaching students to strive for excellence in learning, not adopting standards that are common to the core. New Hampshire is capable of adopting more excellent standards for our children, and we can develop tests that are appropriate so that our children will learn to love learning – not hate it because of ridiculous testing.

(Joseph Mendola is a member of the Kearsarge Regional School Board.)

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