Mr. Mayor and members of the Manchester Board of Education:

I would like to thank you for the courtesy to speak before the board at the request of some Manchester residents on May 4th, 2015. I am following up with information that I referenced in my comments along with additional information that led Cornerstone to call for the halt to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Cornerstone does not oppose the use of standardized testing in the schools when they are used in a way that benefits the local community and offers feedback to parents on academic achievement.

We also believe it would benefit parents and school personnel if the decision on standardized testing came from the local community. The results can then be shared with parents so they could offer feedback on what needed to be addressed in the district. We believe parents are looking for information on their child’s academic achievement versus assessing their attitudes or values.

These psychometric assessments will be used to determine where schools rank and will impact a teacher and principal’s evaluation. There is potential to harm a professional’s career based on this flawed assessment.

The term I referenced when addressing the Smarter Balanced Assessment was, “Cognitive Child Abuse.” This is not a term I chose but one used by Dr. Gary Thompson. I do not have the professional qualifications to make this judgement, however Dr. Thompson does possess those qualifications.

It is unfortunate that Tom Raffio, Chairman of the Board of Education would so quickly dismiss the professional opinion of a licensed medical professional without thoughtful consideration to his professional background and professional opinion.

Dr. Thompson has testified before legislatures in different states on the use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and has offered insight on why this assessment has the potential for negative psychological effects on at-risk youth populations. I urge you to listen to his testimony before the Wisconsin State Legislature.

It’s also important to understand that in the field of Psychology when these types of psychometric assessments are used, there is a strict code of ethics they must follow. You can find the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct here:

In order to use these kinds of assessments, the individual must give informed consent. There is a great deal of harm that can be done to an individual if the information gathered is not protected.

Dr. Thompson has confirmed that if he did not follow this code of ethics, he would risk losing his license to practice. And yet when these same kind of assessments are given in local schools, there is no requirement for informed consent by parents.

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.

Because there were no K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional that wrote or reviewed the Common Core Standards, many early childhood educators were shocked by what they saw and issued a joint statement sharing their concerns.

From the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative.
They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing. Current state standards for young children have led to the heavy use of standardized tests in kindergarten and the lower grades, despite their unreliability for assessing children under age eight. The proposed core standards will intensify inappropriate testing in place of broader observational assessments that better serve young children’s needs.
Jayson Seaman from Durham, NH sent a letter to in support of the parents refusing to let their children take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. In his letter he says,
I am a PhD level educational researcher who studies learning.
My opposition to Smarter Balanced is driven by two main reservations:
(1) U.S. families have, since 2001, been unwitting participants in a educational research project at an unprecedented scale, with activist reformers and legislators pushing market-based reforms underwritten by a punitive system of testing. Smarter Balanced represents the latest wave of data collection in this widespread experiment. As a researcher, I am subject to Institutional Review Board scrutiny anytime I use psychometric assessments of learning, and it is required practice to secure consent from research participants and to let them opt out at any time with no penalty. Smarter Balanced is such an assessment and should be held to the same ethical standard as all research on human subjects, in which seeking consent is mandatory.

(2) Smarter Balanced is claimed to be a valid assessment of learning. This is false in one crucial respect: Standardized tests have been shown repeatedly to lack ecological validity. In educational research, validity refers to a test’s ability to measure what it claims to measure, and not something else. Above all else, standardized tests measure children’s ability to take standardized tests. There is little correspondence between this ability and the ability to proficiently learn and perform complex tasks in normal environments. I do not necessarily fault the designers of Smarter Balanced for this problem, as it is a common mistake in educational research due to inadequate training. Nonetheless, because Smarter Balanced – and all similar metrics – cannot approximate real-life situations in which people are called upon to learn, it lacks validity in precisely the domain it purports to measure. I regard Smarter Balanced as part of a nationwide system of compulsory participation in unethically managed, invalid research.

Representative and School Board member David Murotake from Nashua reported disturbing comments from teachers regarding the Smarter Balanced Assessment:

Summarizing comments made during an interview I conducted with Dr. James Milgram on The Smarter Balanced Assessment, he said the SBAC sample math questions looked frightfully similar to the questions that were on the old tests used in California based on the old 1992 CA Standards. Those old California Standards were based on the 1989 NCTM standards.

Dr. Milgram said we are going to see parents up in arms and it wont take long before they realize their children are being “harmed”. 1:19:00

What they did in California did not work and it’s one of the reasons he became involved in developing new California standards that were considered to be the best in the U.S.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is also based on what Kentucky used years ago and failed in that state too. (KIRIS and CATS) Kentucky cited the inability to score subjective items and inefficiency as some of the problems. The “Kentucky Experiment” was abandoned later as a “failure”.

Then there are critiques like this one that charges the Smarter Balanced Math Assessment is fundamentally flawed.

Steven Rasmussen reports, “Given my background as a publisher of mathematics curriculum and software, I was keenly interested to see whether the vision of better tests had been fulfilled. I took a close look at the Smarter Balanced practice and training tests available online. What I found shocked me: a quagmire of poor technological design, poor interaction design, and poor mathematics that hopelessly clouds the insights the tests might give us into students’ thinking.”

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

These are some examples with the problems with the Smarter Balanced Assessment. States like South Carolina, Utah and Iowa have seen the problems with Smarter Balanced and have withdrawn from the consortium. There are alternative achievement tests like the Stanford Achievement Test, California Achievement Test or the Iowa Basic Skills Test that have been in use for decades and have never received this kind of backlash from parents.

It is the parents, not the bureaucrats who should be the ones directing the education in their local district through their elected school board members. Under this testing and accountability scheme they have no control over the test and as parents begin to learn that the assessments are used to gather information on their children versus offer them the feedback on their true “proficiency” in the core subjects, parents are simply saying NO.

Finally, this reform effort is continually sold as a way to get kids to think critically. However those who sell this latest reform fail to offer any critical analysis about the programs they are addressing. What we’ve heard from from Chairman Raffio, Commissioner Barry and Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, is a patronizing and condescending attitude towards parents who do use critical thinking skills. Board Members Avard and Dunphy picked up on what many of us have witnessed on several occasions and addressed it accurately in their remarks.

Cornerstone continues to call on the Governor, the Commissioner and the New Hampshire Board of Education to halt the Smarter Balanced Assessment in New Hampshire. We would encourage everyone to look at the critics instead of dismiss them as “crazy” or “ridiculous” as Chairman Raffio did during the school board meeting.

We feel there is enough evidence that warrants the Commissioner to halt the assessments and begin the process of analyzing the Smarter Balanced Assessment in a responsible way.

Thank you for your time and your thoughtful consideration.

Best Regards,
Ann Marie Banfield
Education Liaison, Cornerstone Action