Edelblut will review state’s math, ELA standards

  • Frank Edelblut at the Monitor editorial board, August 16, 2016. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 7/14/2017 12:17:14 AM

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to not open a formal review of New Hampshire’s English and math standards – for now. But education commissioner Frank Edelblut will independently undertake his own informal review in hopes of bringing the board proposed changes in about a year.

The move was the resolution to months of tense back-and-forth for the board, whose marathon meetings have been dominated by discussions about whether to revisit the state’s Common Core-aligned standards.

The meeting opened, as recent meetings have, with administrators from local districts pleading with the board to leave the math and ELA standards alone, arguing that they were working well and that subjects like social studies need review much more urgently.

But Edelblut, who made strident opposition to Common Core a campaign platform during his unsuccessful bid for governor last year, argued that it was incumbent upon him to continually review standards to make sure they didn’t become dated.

“These are things that need to be looked at on an ongoing basis,” he said. “These are not things that we let sit for 10 years.”

Drew Cline, the board’s new chairman, hastened to add that the board wasn’t being asked to take any immediate action. The commissioner could undertake his own informal review, and, once he had prepared feedback, ask the board to reopen the standards for a formal revision process.

“Some of the correspondence that we’ve received said something to the effect of: I understand or I heard that you’re going to vote on opening these standards up at this July meeting. No – that’s not where we are,” he said.

But board member Bill Duncan argued that if the commissioner wanted to undertake his own review of the standards – despite overwhelming opposition from teachers and administrators – the board needed to make clear to an anxious community of educators where they stood.

“The board, I think, needs to tell the field: Okay, anybody can do this, the commissioner’s going to do it. But be clear that the State Board of Education is not opening a standards review in which the ELA and math standards could potentially be changed,” he said. (Only the board has the legal authority to change the standards.)

Duncan’s motion passed with support from board members Helen Honorow and Gary Groleau. Kate Cassady and Cindy Chagnon both abstained from voting, with Chagnon, who has repeatedly argued against reopening the standards, saying she feared the motion could discourage educators from giving Edelblut their feedback.

Ann Lane was the sole member to vote against it. The current standards had engendered opposition from educators before they were adopted, she said, and the board’s job wasn’t necessarily to do what was popular.

“Our job might not be pleasant. Our job might be difficult. And we’re going to have some pushback, just like we had pushback (before). And that’s our job,” she said.

Edelblut might find a more receptive audience in a year when he returns with proposed changes. With Duncan’s term expiring in 2018, Gov. Chris Sununu will at that point have the chance to appoint a majority of the board’s members.

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

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