Dear Senators,

As the New Hampshire Senate votes on HB323 Thursday, it’s important to explain the numerous problems that currently exist.

Given the failures on the part of the NH Dept. of Ed when choosing the Smarter Balanced Assessment, it is only prudent that you do not move forward with a new assessment program without some kind of proof that the next assessment offers the quality feedback you are looking for.

The New Hampshire Department of Education has yet to release industry standard validity studies on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Schools have begun administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment 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.

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 assessment 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.

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

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. Since the new PACE is a performance based assessment, someone needs to start asking questions on how students will be scored.

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, the SBA will measure exactly what legislators serving on the House Education Committee in the prior session said they did not want measured.

Dr. Thompson said, “ 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.

All of this was confirmed in David Murotake’s testimony before the members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative rules when he reported concerns among the Nashua teachers. Some of the comments from teachers said, ” seems the test was designed more as a psychological or sociological experiment, not as a measure of academic learning. Who created this test, anyway? It couldn’t have been by professional educators.

Cornerstone has called for the halt to the Smarter Balanced testing in New Hampshire for a number of reasons. You can read a recent letter I sent to the Manchester School Board that will list several problems that have been uncovered with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
1) Medically licensed Child Psychologist refers to the Smarter Balanced Assessment as Cognitive Child Abuse
2) Child psychologists have to follow a strict ethics code when administering a psychometric assessment, yet that is not required when administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
3) Early Childhood educators issued a joint statement on how the Common Core standards were developmentally inappropriate for young children and how that would lead to bigger problems with the standardized test.
4) There are no ethical standards when administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment however that is required of other professionals due to the potential damage that can be done to students.
5) Similar assessments have been used in the past in California and Kentucky where it became obvious that these kinds of assessments were a failure.
6) Math professionals have documented the Common Core Math assessment is fatally flawed.

It was the irresponsible decision by the New Hampshire Department of Education under Governor Hassan that forced our public schools to administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It is wise to take this hard lesson and question any assessment they want to use as a replacement. If the new PACE program proves to be equally flawed, then it would be wise to make sure you are not contributing to the problem by passing legislation in support of PACE.

There are a number of concerns that have not been addressed by the NH DoE when it comes to the PACE program.
1) What will the PACE assessments cost the NH Districts?
2) Since the Smarter Balanced Consortium has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to transfer student level data to the Feds., will the PACE assessments do the same thing? Will student level data be collected and then transferred to the Feds? Where are all of the agreements that have been signed with the NH DoE regarding PACE?
3) Has the PACE assessments been validated? If not, does that violate state statute? RSA 193-C III (b) “The assessment exercises or tasks shall be valid and appropriate representations of the standards the students are expected to achieve.”
4) Are the PACE assessments objectively scored? IF not, does that violate state statute? RSA 193-C II. The assessment portion of the program shall consist of a variety of assessment tasks which can be objectively scored.
5) Why are there no alternative achievement tests included in HB323 so schools can have options when testing their students? (Iowa Basic Skills Test, Stanford Achievement Test or California Achievement test)
6) Are the PACE assessments Psychometric assessments and if so, why are there no provisions for requiring informed consent from parents in HB323?
7) Why is there NO provision in HB323 for an opt-out if parents find the PACE assessments are as equally flawed as the Smarter Balanced Assessment?
8) The PACE program is a Competency Based Assessment. New Hampshire schools have been using Competency Based Ed. for several years now. Where are the independent studies that show this ed reform has improved academic achievement?
9) Is there a fiscal note?
10) Is the Federal Government funding the PACE program in any way?
11) Why can’t the NH DoE replace the SBA without HB323? If legislation is needed, then why not open up the testing to achievement testing too?
12) Will special ed students also be required to participate in the PACE assessments?
13) Will the results from the PACE assessments be used in any way to judge a teacher or school ? Will the PACE assessments be part of a student’s performance that can then be included in a teacher’s evaluation?

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.

Psychometric assessments are different from the achievement tests that have been used in the past. Achievement tests like the Iowa Basic Skills Test or the Stanford Achievement Test, have been around for decades. When is the last time you heard parents rising up to protest and refuse having their children take an achievement test? Shouldn’t achievement tests be a viable option for New Hampshire schools too?

Parents do not want their children subjected to data-collection and psychological examinations without their knowledge or consent. That is why there is a national movement to withdraw their children from this kind of “testing.”

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 developmentally inappropriate academic standards and an assessment that teachers are refusing to administer and parents are refusing to allow their children to take.

The NH DoE has failed to adequately identify the problems that need to be solved, the model that is needed to solve it and then propose a viable solution to those problems. Governor Hassan should develop a sound strategy when it comes to standards and testing. Let’s look at ways to grant schools the flexibility to also choose appropriate and valid achievement tests that measures academic knowledge. That’s the kind of feedback parents are looking for, but missing from HB323.

HB323 fails to provide what parents are looking for but instead provides what the U.S. Department of Education bureaucrats are looking for in Washington D.C. We continue to support a vote of “Inexpedient to Legislate” on HB323. The Governor needs to prioritize public education in New Hampshire and show leadership when there are problems that need to be addressed.

Ann Marie Banfield
Education Liaison, Cornerstone Action