Legislation was proposed in an effort to give more flexibility to schools on the standardized assessments used in New Hampshire schools.  However with the new federal law (ESSA) Every Student Succeeds Act, it looks like local control in testing is just a dream.

Who voted for ESSA?  Senators Ayotte and Shaheen along with Congresswoman Kuster.
Who voted against ESSA? Congressman Guinta (make sure you thank him)

After looking at what ESSA forces on students in terms of “standardized testing, I expect to see even MORE parents refuse to  let their children take them.

What standardized assessments does New Hampshire use?
Smarter Balanced Assessment and PACE (in some districts)

To the Chairman and Members of the House Education Committee:

My name is Ann Marie Banfield and I am the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. We represent more than 6,000 New Hampshire residents and I come before you today in opposition of HB1240.

The intent of HB1240 appears to give flexibility to local schools when assessing students. I’m afraid the reality of HB 1240, doesn’t do that. I don’t believe we will get the autonomy I’d like to see if this bill were to pass.

HB1240 does give the appearance of supporting local control when choosing assessments, however with the recent passage of ESSA Every Student Succeeds Act, that control is lost.

ESSA language on assessments is lengthy and any autonomy legislators would like to give to local school districts is severely restricted.

Rep. Rick Ladd’s direction to the New Hampshire Department of Education for more local control on assessments during their presentation on ESSA may be wishful thinking.

ESSA requires the state to develop plans that must be approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education. This leaves all decisions ultimately to the Federal Government.


The State has an obligation to demonstrate that the State educational agency consulted with local educational agencies to implement high quality academic assessments. However the ultimate authority in this case would be the U.S. Secretary of Education as the final arbitrator on whether or not they will distribute funding based on what the state provided in those plans.


In other words, if local schools in New Hampshire were to choose a local assessment that didn’t meet the approval of the Secretary of Education, our federal funding could be at risk.

Within those guidelines there is also a reference to the type of testing that will be allowed. In other words, schools that want to test for academic knowledge using achievement testing that is objective, would not be approved.

ESSA requires assessments to be developed, to the extent practicable, using the principles of universal design for learning. (UDL) That is a significant restriction on the kinds of tests schools can use.


UDL measures “higher order thinking skills and while that may sound good, the practice may be one parents or even school administrators want to avoid. http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/05/19/udl-personalized-939/

Higher-order thinking skills have little to do with factual or academic knowledge. These assessments will measure, in a subjective way, skills such as critical, logical, reflective, metacognitive, and creative thinking. These are now embedded in computerized programs that map and analyze a child’s brain function.

This means they will be measuring a student’s non-cognitive dispositions, attributes and mindsets. The focus on academic knowledge becomes secondary to these so-called higher order-thinking skills. http://childrenthinkingskills.blogspot.com/p/high-order-of-thinking-skills.html

This is exactly what many parents do not want schools measuring on a “standardized test.” This is also often cited as a complaint by parents due to the subjective nature when measuring their child’s values or attitudes.

This kind of testing was an important part ESSA and pushed by Senator Lamar Alexander but was also highly criticized by parents across the United States.

If the goal is to empower local schools and defy the federal law, this Bill must go much further.

There must be language that includes achievement tests. Achievement tests are objectively scored, validated, and test academic knowledge. That is very different from what the Federal Government has prescribed.

Local tests or assessments must also be funded which could mean simply shifting funds from the assessments in use to achievement tests. All of this can be done through state statute if that is the goal.

It’s important to remember that Wakefield NH elevated their local academic standards and began using the old Massachusetts standards a few years ago. If they are truly free to use a test of academic knowledge versus an assessment of dispositions and attitudes, this language must be clear and the funding available.

The State Department of Education can also provide direction to schools that they support the use of achievement tests or any other measurement tool. So far they have been fully committed to the psychometric testing which is exactly what the Federal Government dictates.

Legislation should not be passed in order to give an appearance but must be authentic if there is a commitment to restore local control in testing. We cannot say to schools you have the ability to choose your own test but then tie their hands behind their back.

For these reasons I urge you to vote Inexpedient to Legislate on HB1240 or amend the language to give real autonomy to local schools in New Hampshire.

LINK TO ESSA: https://deutsch29.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/essa-final-version.pdf