The issue of parent opt out forms for the Smarter Balanced Assessment reared its head again at Monday’s meeting of the Manchester Board of School Committee. In response to questions posed by Ward Nine Committeeman Arthur Beaudry, who was again in search of an opt out form, Assistant Superintendent David Ryan said that the state Department of Education had issued a Technical Bulletin saying parents could not opt their children out of the assessment. That touched off quite a discussion about depriving parents of their rights. We tracked down the bulletin, which we have, of course, uploaded to this news read at Girard at Large dot com. What the bulletin really said, however, is this: Quote
“The mention of parent refusals in the first paragraph of the Request for State Approved Special Considerations document is an acknowledgment of a district’s reality when it comes to meeting the requirements of the New Hampshire law that states all students must participate in the statewide assessment. This statement does not, in any way, articulate that the state has a “parent refusal policy.” In fact, the document is clear (page 12) that parent refusal does not qualify for an exemption.
The bulletin goes on to cite RSA 1 9 3 dash C colon 6, which now requires ALL students to participate in statewide assessments, unless they meet one of the five very narrow exemptions in the law, thanks to the passage of Senate Bill forty eight, which we vigorously opposed, and concludes by saying this: Quote:
“If a student does not participate in the assessment, it will be reflected in the school and district’s participation rate that is included in the state, district and school report cards.”
Let me translate for you: If the districts allow students to opt out, they run the risk of some sort of sanction, probably having to do with funding, for exercising local control and respecting parental authority.
Meanwhile, U S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan unveiled his “50 State Teacher Equity” strategy. Duncan has asked all states to submit a, new “State Educator Equity Plan” in accordance with the requirements of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
In this plan, each state must, among other things, describe the steps it will take to ensure that quote “poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers.”
If enacted, this would likely cause states, including New Hampshire, to take the hiring of local school teachers out of the hands of local officials by making it a state function so that teachers could be moved across district boundaries to remedy any inequities in experienced staff. We’ve linked to the story published Ann Marie Banfield of Cornerstone Policy Research on Oh My Blog! at Girard at Large dot com from this newscast.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Manchester Ward Seven School Board Member Ross Terrio succeeded in his bid to extend the city’s tuition contract with Hooksett by one year at cost plus ten percent. Two weeks ago, the Hooksett School Board voted to support that extension despite the Manchester board’s original rejection of Terrio’s proposal. Terrio argued that the negotiations had hit a stalemate and that a one year deal would allow more time to negotiate a longer term agreement.
Mayor Ted Gatsas opposed it asking why the city would sacrifice recovering capital costs incurred to facilitate Hooksett’s high school students at Central and West and noted Terrio’s proposal would reduce revenues by nearly one hundred forty thousand dollars. The measure passed on an eight to five vote with Ward Ten’s John Avard, Ward Twelve’s Connie Van Houten, Ward Three’s Christopher Stewart and Ward Sixes Robyn Dunphy joining Gatsas in opposition. At-Large member David Wihby and Ward Five Committeeman Ted Rokas were absent. Gatsas hammered the move saying it was totally unacceptable because it left the city’s taxpayers paying for it.
It is noteworthy that negotiations committee members Erika Connors from Ward Eight, Sarah Ambrogi from Ward One and at-Large member Kathy Staub voted to circumvent their own committee, which Gatsas and Stewart also sit on.
Terrio’s off agenda move had an unintended, but predictable consequence at the Hooksett School Board, which also met Monday night. Girard at Large has confirmed that at least one counter proposal in response to the one from Manchester that Hookett rejected wasn’t offered. School Board Member James Sullivan said that he received a text regarding the Manchester board’s action and decided, as a result, not to propose a six year deal that would pay Manchester tuition in the amount of actual cost plus two percent and capital costs of one hundred thirty two thousand dollars a year. So, it would appear as if the mayor’s concern about the city negotiating against itself was pretty well founded.
Also at that meeting, the Hooksett School Board completed its review of Pinkerton Academy’s proposed deal. The board had concerns over what we’ll call transparency issues and what it pays for in its tuition and what it gets for information on various issues. However the big deal has to do with contract minimums. It looks like Hooksett may be willing to ditch its opposition to provide Pinkerton with a minimum number of students if that number is considered low enough. In their counter proposal to Pinkerton, which isn’t negotiating against itself, Hooksett has proposed guaranteeing that ten percent of its eighth grade class, whatever that number is, be the minimum number of students they have to supply.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next.
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