Her Highness The Governess Margaret Wood Hassan made an announcement that had Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas pretty annoyed at last night’s meeting of the Board of School Committee. Turns out she and Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry announced the feds approved four school districts for a Competency Based Assessment Program known as PACE. Their press released bragged it was a first in the nation accountability strategy that offered reduced levels of standardized testing with locally managed assessments.
Apparently, the program’s been in the works for five years and but the city of Manchester has, at no time, been part of the discussion and neither state Board of Education Chair Tom Raffio nor Deputy Education Commissioner Paul Leather bothered to mention it to Gatsas at a recent meeting between the three. The press release said that all school districts were invited to participate in the program in two thousand twelve, but Gatsas said he was unaware of any invitation and hasn’t found anybody in the school district that is aware of any invitation. Why does this matter, you ask? Well, the PACE pilot is one N H D O E’s strategies to reduce over-testing. The release also said the department is in the final stages of making it possible for New Hampshire high schools to administer the S A T as the high school assessment, which is exactly what the city wanted to do, but was told it would risk over twenty million dollars in federal funds if it did. The school board buckled to the threat and voted to use the test after saying it would not.
The gov’s press release also said the state Department of Education had been working intensively with the four lucky districts for two years to help get them ready for the local assessment process, which had Gatsas wondering why Manchester, given all it had said and done to develop it’s own standards and ask for waivers to the testing, wasn’t brought into the loop. Good question. Beginning this year, the four PACE districts, Sanborn Regional, Rochester, Epping and Souhegan will give the Smarter Balanced Assessment once in elementary school, once in middle school and once in high school – in three grades instead of seven. The PACE districts will administer common and local “performance assessments” developed by the districts themselves and validated at the state level in the other years. My favorite part of the release? Dr. Scott Marion, the guy the Manchester School District used to ensure the Manchester Academic Standards, known on this show as Manchester’s Rewrite of Common Core, were, in fact Common Core aligned.
The end result of the discussion was a motion from the board to again invite Barry to appear and answer questions. After Ward Nine Committeeman Arthur Beaudry questioned whether or not the administration had actually sent the prior invitations, Gatsas suggested the board do it itself through the clerk. The motion passed with only Ward Three Committeeman Christopher Stewart opposed. We’ve linked to the full text of the release.
That wasn’t the only education news to come out of the state yesterday. Deputy Ed Commissioner Leather caught everybody’s attention when he said, and I quote “We hear about over testing because we really have two accountability systems. The state system (the Smarter Balanced Assessment) is required by federal law, but may not help us improve teaching and learning.” That, of course, is NOT what his boss, Commissioner Barry has been saying. Ooops. Critics say it’s tantamount to an admission that forcing this test on the state is really all about doing the feds bidding to get their money.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
In other big and important news from the Manchester School Board last night, a letter informing parents of their right to refuse participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment was approved on a fourteen to one vote. Christopher Stewart was again the lone vote in opposition. The letter was a far cry better than the one we pounded on yesterday, which last night’s meeting confirmed was written by administrators and blessed by the district’s attorney.
Ward Six Committeewoman Robyn Dunphy was responsible for the much shorter, much clearer rewrite advising parents of the district’s requirement to administer the test under law as well as their right to refuse their participation. During last night’s public input sessions, parent Patrice Benard raised serious questions about whether or not the use of the online test violated the district’s online inter and intra-net policies. I guess they’re going to have to look into that.
Ward Nine Committeeman Arthur Beaudry also revisited the question of whether or not the administration played favorites with school sports teams last month when Central was allowed to play a game while others were disallowed to practice and play. Apparently, Beaudry must have been tuned into our coverage of how West had games canceled as well, a fact that stood contrary to administrators’ claims that Central was the only team with games that day. Well they weren’t and Assistant Superintendent David Ryan’s assertion that they were canceled before Central asked to play to justify the prior claim that there were no other games schedule seemed to stun the board. Uh oh.
The Bedford Police Department is accepting applications for its two thousand fifteen Citizen Academy. There are still spots available and anyone interested can obtain an application online at bedford p d dot com. We’ve posted the link to all the details. Applications must be submitted before the close of business on March 18.