Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:
My name is Ann Marie Banfield, and I am the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action. Cornerstone Action represents roughly 6,000 New Hampshire residents. Cornerstone’s interest in education is to focus policies and legislation on literacy, academic excellence and parental rights. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Committee today on HB538FNL, relative to the implementation of new statewide education annual assessments.
I come here in support of HB538, but I would like to make a suggestion to change the language by adding an amendment that seeks to halt the implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in New Hampshire.
Under section II: “ If the state board of education recommends or implements the use of a new annual statewide assessment, a school district may continue to administer the existing statewide assessment for p to the next 2 school years in some or all of the schools in the school district.” I would suggest adding language that allows a school district to administer an achievement test in place of the required assessment, based on local standards adopted by local school districts.
The New Hampshire Department of Education has yet to release industry standard validity studies on the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment.
New Hampshire Law states: “II. Since the program is not a minimum competency testing program, assessment instruments should be designed to reflect the range of learning exhibited by students. The assessment portion of the program shall consist of a variety of assessment tasks which can be objectively scored.”
New Hampshire schools are poised to give the Smarter Balanced Assessment in March, and yet there has been no external validity or reliability granted. This means the test developers have no outside confirmation that the test questions measure what they claim they measure. Nor can they provide consistent results after the assessment has been administered repeatedly.
They do have their claim of validity with a plan to develop these external validations sometime in the future. It is within reason for any district in New Hampshire to delay administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment based on the fact that the assessment has not been validated properly.
Note what New Hampshire statutes say in this regard: RSA 193C: 3 III (b): “The assessment exercises or tasks shall be valid and appropriate representations of the standards the students are expected to achieve.”
There is a lawsuit that was filed against Missouri Governor Jay Nixon in Missouri and other state officials, arguing that the state is funding an “illegal interstate compact” by providing money to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. (Source: http://www.newstribune.com/news/2014/sep/20/lawsuitchallengesstatepaymentssupportcom monc/ Lawsuit challenges state payments to support ‘Common Core’)
The lawsuit argues that the funding of Smarter Balanced cedes the state’s sovereignty over its K12 policy to the consortium. The plaintiffs claim the Smarter Balanced was never authorized by Congress and is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
193C: 3 III (d) Teachers shall be involved in designing and using the assessment system. Were any New Hampshire teachers involved in designing the assessments? Was the Smarter Balanced assessment vetted by New Hampshire teachers? Would you want to be evaluated in this way?
The Smarter Balanced set the cut scores and by design, those cut scores have been set so that 62% of the children will score below proficient. (Source: Ed Week http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/11/17/13sbac.h34.html#)
Tests that are valid and reliable are the only legally defensible tests that should be incorporated into any evaluation plan of students, teachers, and districts. New Hampshire’s Board of Education and Department of Education are responsible for ensuring that statewide assessments administered in New Hampshire are valid and objective, yet they committed New Hampshire as a governing member of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in 2010, before the test was developed.
Since Smarter Balanced cannot produce independent results that show validity or reliability, the best they can do at this point is use a statistical model to estimate reliability. District AYP for 2015 will be calculated using a predictive model, not actual data. There is no evidence of validity or reliability by the New Hampshire Department of Education, and yet we are full steam ahead with administering the assessment in March.
There are also technical issues surrounding the performance tasks that are integrated into the assessment. This should be especially concerning to you in light of the efforts to use these growth scores in teacher and school evaluations.
For instance, it can take a number of tasks required by students to acquire a stable estimate on the student’s ability to perform the required tasks. Schools will need extra time and resources to administer multiple tasks. This also presents a difficult challenge when comparing scores from year to year.
Dr. Gary Thompson, clinical psychologist in Utah, cited in his testimony before the Utah legislature the February 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Education. Common Core state standards will authorize the use of testing instruments that will measure “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes and intra personal resources.”
In other words, this assessment will measure exactly what legislators serving on the House Education Committee in the prior session said they did not want measured.
He stated that, “The level of information these provide about a particular child is both highly sensitive and extremely personal in nature. In a clinical setting these mental health records are strictly protected by multiple federal state and professional association regulations, including HIPAA.”
In the case of New Hampshire children, you are using our tax dollars to administer psychological assessments without telling parents or obtaining their permission.
Because Common Core provisions have granted HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) waivers, students’ “highly sensitive and extremely personal” information is not protected.
Common Core mandates it to be uploaded to the SLDS (State Longitudinal Data System) and shared federally. Then, due to recent changes in Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) laws, it is available to third parties.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a psychometrics assessment. Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational measurement. The field is primarily concerned with the construction and validation of measurement instruments such as questionnaires, tests, and personality assessments. Today these tests are mainly used in the corporate world to find where an individual would best fit in a company’s structure.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment has proven to be a catastrophe from the beginning. Many of us warned that this assessment was going to be full of problems and it would be better to use a valid achievement test in its place.
We now have Commissioner Barry admitting that every Superintendent in New Hampshire with the exception of one, wants to replace Smarter Balanced with another test.
It was a mistake to sign on to the Smarter Balanced Assessment from the beginning. We lose the power and authority to use objective tests that measure academic knowledge and take into consideration students who might have: Autism, Reading Disorders, ADHD, Psychotic Disorders, HIghly Anxious children, Trauma Victims, Kids in High Stress Poverty, and Kids with Mood Disorders.
In the rush to obtain Race to the Top Money, stimulus money and No Child Left Behind waivers, we are implementing developmentallyinappropriate academic standards and an assessment that teachers are refusing to administer and parents are refusing to allow their children to take.
Given the numerous issues surrounding the Smarter Balanced Assessment, we would advise taking this legislation and halting the implementation of this assessment or any other psychometric assessment that can be used to collect personal data on students. Instead grant schools the flexibility to choose an appropriate and valid achievement test that measures real academic knowledge. That’s the kind of feedback parents are looking for.