3-31-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Smarter Balance Testing and A ‘Thank You’ To Legislators

AFT NH Legislative Update

Now that crossover has come and gone both chambers will start working on each other’s bills.  Both chambers have till May 15th to act on these bills.

I would like to thank all the representatives that supported us on the following bills:

AFT-NH supported the recommendation of Ought To Pass as amended on HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees. The amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

AFT-NH was also in support of the Inexpedient To Legislate on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

We are disappointed that the following bills were defeated: 

HB 1105-FN-L, relative to aid to school districts for costs of special education. AFT-NH supported this bill because it would have lifted the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully funded it. With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million to communities. Catastrophic aid is a state fund that helps local district with exorbitant special education costs for our severely disabled children.

HB 1114: which sought to establish a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. This bill would have put a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many district have not been able to afford completing upgrades, repairs or build new buildings because of the cost. Keep in mind, 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

Common Core and The Smarter Balance State Assessment

There were several bills voted on in the House that were related to the Common Core and the Smarter Balance state assessment. Knowing that both of these will be moving forward in New Hampshire we need to ensure that all schools have the following in place:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice.
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class.
  • We must provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • Ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • Communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students, AND
  • Develop best practices and strategies along with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply.
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments, AND
  • Make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers.
  • Assessments need to be aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
  • Professional development and training in the Standards needs to be offered, AND
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.
  • We need to make sure the assessments inform teaching, not impede teaching and learning.
  • Assessments need to support teaching and learning, and must align with curriculum rather than narrow it.
  • Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn.
  • Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.
  • The development and implementation of assessments must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.
  • These assessments must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

TUESDAY, APRIL 1

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
1:00 p.m. HB 1146, establishing a committee to study the feasibility of funding a kindergarten
to college/career ready program and a universal college savings account.
1:30 p.m. HB 1489-FN-A-L, establishing a committee to study the establishment of a fund to
reimburse costs associated with firefighters who have cancer.
Executive Session May Follow

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
10:30 a.m. HB 1435, requiring law enforcement officials to disclose specific information relating
to a police checkpoint.

House EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306
10:30 a.m. SB 395-FN, relative to the retirement classification of the Director of the Division
of Forests and Lands.
11:30 a.m. SB 418, relative to the proclamation of firefighters memorial day.

House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
11:30 a.m. SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and recommendation of the municipal
budget committee to the governing body.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2

Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 100, SH
9:30 a.m. HB 1152-FN, terminating the benefit program for call, substitute or volunteer firemen
administered by the New Hampshire retirement system.
10:00 a.m. HB 1398-FN, allowing the retirement system to make payments in lieu of payments
to estates in certain instances.
10:30 a.m. HB 1617-FN, permitting the retirement system to access death, marriage, and
divorce records of the division of vital records administration for the administration of
RSA 100-A.
Executive Session May Follow

House ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and expenditures and relative to
reporting by political committees.

House LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
1:30 p.m. SB 295, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.

THURSDAY, APRIL 3

Senate HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 1488-FN, establishing the New Hampshire program on educational support for
military children.
9:20 a.m. HB 1587-FN-L, relative to the collection and disclosure of student data.
Executive Session May Follow

House FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
11:15 a.m. SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees
received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

House FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:30 p.m. Work session on SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in
which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

TUESDAY, APRIL 8

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
11:00 a.m. SB 335-FN, (New Title) establishing a commission to study career and technical
education centers.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 207-FN, relative to paycheck equity.

12:30 p.m. LOB 305-307: All legislators are invited to a showing of the acclaimed documentary “Inequality for All” which features Robert Reich, economics professor, best-selling author, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, as he demonstrates how the widening income gap is having a devastating impact on the American economy. The film is described as “a passionate argument on behalf of the middle class.” The showing is open to all. This event is part of the film’s “50 State Capitals Tour” this winter and spring, designed especially for Legislators and policy-makers.

THURSDAY, APRIL 10

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
9:00 a.m. HB 1624-FN, modernizing the juvenile justice system to ensure rehabilitation of
juveniles and preservation of juvenile rights.
Executive Session May Follow

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 343, relative to the duties of the statewide education improvement and
assessment program legislative oversight committee and repealing the school
administrative unit legislative oversight committee.
11:00 a.m. SB 350, relative to the transfer of adequacy aid calculation data from the
Department of Education to the Department of Revenue Administration.
1:15 p.m. SB 348, establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in
elementary and secondary schools.

TUESDAY, APRIL 15

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 355, relative to access to social media by educational institutions.
11:00 a.m. SB 414-FN, relative to Medicaid-funded services provided as a part of a child’s
individualized education program.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16

12:30 p.m. 62 North Main Street:  Big Money and Politics – New Hampshire is the highest per-capita recipient of outside special-interest money. Learn about the efforts to address this issue at the state level, understand the federal landscape and what you can do about it. This presentation, including a panel discussion led by the Coalition for Open Democracy and Americans for Campaign Reform, is part of New England College’s education series to take place at the college’s new Concord facility. Walk south on North Main, Located on the clock tower side, near the Norway Bank, three-minutes from the steps of the State House.

THURSDAY, APRIL 17

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

MONDAY, APRIL 21

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND OPEN ENROLLMENT LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (RSA 194-B:21), Room 100, State House
11:30 a.m. Regular meeting. Presentation by Paul Leather, Deputy Commission Department of Education on HB 435.

Minneapolis Federation Of Teachers’ Ratify Contract That Strengthens Public Education

AFT_Logo-2

Editor’s Note: Today it was announced that the Minneapolis Federation of Teacher ratified a new contract.  While ratifying a contract is good news, the details of their contract are even better.  This is why I decided to share this with all of the NH Labor News. — MATT

AFT President Weingarten on Minneapolis Teachers’ Contract Ratification

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WASHINGTON—Statement from AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers’ ratification of a new contract agreement with the Minneapolis Public Schools:

“This agreement helps reclaim the promise of public education in Minneapolis. It opens a new chapter in the relationship that includes the Minneapolis community, Minneapolis educators and the city’s public school system. The agreement enables partners to work together to create community schools tailored to meet students’ needs, and it recognizes and values the voice and experience of educators in strengthening Minneapolis schools and helping all children succeed.

“The agreement ratified today was a product of nine months of tough negotiations and mediation. The vote by MFT members to approve it is a statement of their continuing commitment to the collective bargaining process as the best way to define the solutions that will serve all children.

“By taking important steps toward limiting class sizes—particularly in the city’s high-priority schools—this agreement advances the goal that teachers, parents and all who care about Minneapolis children share: making sure that all students, no matter what neighborhood they live in, receive the support they need to succeed, with equity in resources across the school district.

“I commend MFT President Lynn Nordgren and her bargaining team for working through many challenges in negotiations with the school district to reach an agreement that will be good for both teaching and learning. This agreement:

  • For the first time ever, makes class size targets public, sets a limit of 18 students for K-3 classes in high-priority schools, and includes a commitment from the district to respond to class size issues within five days.
  • Establishes an audit of standardized assessments, with the stated goal of reducing the time devoted to testing and test preparation beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
  • Establishes a collaborative process for creating Community Partnership Schools that will allow teachers to take a lead role in developing site-based educational models designed to meet the particular needs of students at individual schools.
  • Includes small increases in compensation in each year of the contract. These raises recognize the value of MFT members’ contributions and commitment to the children of Minneapolis—and they come after four straight years in which teachers received no cost of living increases.”

The new two-year agreement covers the current and the 2014-15 school years. It will take effect following approval by the board of education, which is expected at the board’s next regular meeting.

Bill Duncan of ANHPE, Response To A Barrington, NH, Middle School Teacher’s Critique Of The Common Core

Teacher

Larry Graykin, Barrington Middle School English teacher, recently posted a guest editorial opposing the Common Core on NH Labor News.  He brings a lot of credibility as a teacher, but I do have questions about his post.

First, why does Mr. Graykin rely so much on secondary sources and outside experts when he could draw upon has his own classroom experience and that of his peers in Barrington and around the state?  He uses familiar references that are in general circulation but his classroom is more interesting and credible.  Mr. Graykin is in his classroom every day and can make a valuable contribution to the discussion based on the results he is seeing – or not – as he uses the new standards.

Here are some examples where I think Mr. Graykin’s own experience would have served him better than the experts.

Are the standards developmentally appropriate?

The debate about what’s developmentally appropriate to teach young children is decades old but it reappears these days framed as whether the Common Core is developmentally appropriate.

There is a fundamental reality to acknowledge here first.  The Common Core does set a higher standard.  Expectations for our students, especially those from low-income families, have been too low.  We see it in low graduation rates, high college remediation rates, low college completion rates…and, of course, in poor results on the international tests.

The changes we must make to meet these higher standards are difficult.  Not every school and every leadership team will be prepared or will have the support needed to make this transition easily.

So it’s not surprising that some think the new standards are too hard.

But why go all the way to Connecticut for  a quote from an elementary school principal concerned about the standards?  Mr. Graykin could just walk over to the Barrington Elementary School and write about what he finds there. Whatever he reports, pro or con, would be a contribution to the conversation because he could provide context and insight.

Teachers down the road at Sanborn Regional think that the standards are entirely developmentally appropriate – that it’s just a matter of how you teach.  Maybe he’d find that in Barrington and his concerns would be addressed.  Or maybe not.  Either way, readers would get some deeper insight from the exchange.

But are the new standards a big enough leap forward to justify these new concerns about developmental appropriateness?  New Hampshire’s previous set of standards, adopted in 2006, were called the Grade Level Expectations (GLEs).  When you compare the Common Core math standards to the GLEs, the new standards are clearly more focused on a smaller number of topics each year, but the topics themselves are not that big a jump in difficulty.

Kindergarten math:  Here is a comparison of the GLEs to the Common Core math standards.  Much of the concern about developmental appropriateness focuses on kindergarten,  so look at that comparison in particular.  The two standards look pretty close to me.

It is true that Dr. Milgram, whom Mr. Graykin cites as an authority,  thinks the kindergarten standards are a problem but when you look (here and here, for instance), Dr. Milgram’s argument doesn’t hold up.  In any case, experience in Barrington’s kindergarten classrooms would be more interesting than that of a retired California math professor.

Second grade writing: Mr. Graykin goes on to say makes that the writing expectations for elementary school children are too high.  He cites June 2010 commentary by UNH English Professor Tom Newkirk as his authority.  (Prof. Newkirk expanded on that in this 2013 essay.)

One of Prof. Newkirk’s major complaints about the Common Core is that the standards for “informational writing” in the second grade are not developmentally appropriate.

But how different are the Common Core standards from New Hampshire’s former GLEs.  Here is what GLEs said about informational writing for the second grade:

In informational writing (reports or procedures only), students effectively convey purpose by: Establishing a topic

  • students demonstrate use of a range of elaboration strategies by: Including details/information relevant to topic and/or focus
  • students demonstrate use of a range of elaboration strategies by: Using sufficient details/pictures to illustrate facts
  • students organize ideas/concepts by: Providing a concluding statement

And here is the equivalent informational writing Common Core standard, called “informative/explanatory writing” for the second grade:

“Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.”

The Common Core standards is much simpler, but the expectations of the second grader are clearly similar.  So Prof. Newkirk goes to an appendix to try to make his point.  He says,

“The target student texts in Appendix C [of the Common Core standards] are clearly those of exceptional, even precocious students; in fact, the CCSS has taken what I see as exceptional work, that of perhaps the top 5 percent of students, and made it the new norm. What had once been an expectation for fourth graders becomes the standard for second graders…Normally this would be the expectation of an upper-elementary report; now it is the requirement for seven-year-olds.”

If you look at the appendix, though, there is no sample informative/explanatory essay for second graders.  Here is one for the end of the third grade.  That would certainly represent “exceptional, even precocious” work for a second grader.

Prof. Newkirk is a respected teacher of writing and runs a well-regarded writing program at UNH.  But he has strained so hard to reach the desired conclusion in this case that he got his facts wrong.

Rather than drawing on this kind of academic debate about pushing second graders too hard, why wouldn’t Mr. Graykin just ask a Barrington second grade teacher?  Whatever she said would be a real contribution.

Poetry in middle school

Mr. Graykin says,

“There are NO standards for the writing of poetry.  None.”

That’s kind of true, but it’s a longer story.  The Common Core standards actually pay more attention to poetry than the GLEs did.

Here are the GLEs for writing poetry.  There are no poetry writing standards at all until the 7th grade and then there are only what’s called “local” standards.  That means that poetry is not tested on the NECAP, the statewide annual assessment.  And, when you think about it, how could the annual state assessment test the poetry writing proficiency of all students?  Would parents even want that?

The Common Core standards do make suggestions for poetry readings in every grade.  Here are the grade 6-8 reading “exemplars,” suggestions the standards make for the Barrington Middle School.  The actual selection is left up to Mr. Graykin but the list of suggested poets includes Longfellow, Whitman, Carroll, Navajo tradition, Dickinson, Yeats, Frost, Sandburg, Hughes, Neruda.  Not bad.

As the standards say here, although poetry writing is not part of the standards, the teaching of many types of poetry and other creative writing is left to the discretion of the teacher.

So the Common Core standards take pretty much the same position about poetry that the GLEs did – teach poetry but don’t make proficiency in writing poetry a testing goal for every American student.  Seems pretty logical to me.

In addition, while the NECAP did not use poetry readings in its eighth grade test, the Common Core test (in New Hampshire it’s Smarter Balanced) usespoetry readings throughout its testing.  So poetry actually plays a stronger role now that it did before.

Mr. Graykin says parenthetically that his school can’t change the standards because they are copyrighted and only 15% can be added.  The 15% rule is and urban myth.  Has anyone ever seen it acted upon?  How would that even happen?

Here is the very flexible copyright.  And teachers and school districts all over NH are using that flexibility to change their standards to meet local needs.  Here are Manchester’s changes, in process.  Sanborn Regional does it.  Many other districts do.

Mr. Graykin should feel free to assign as much poetry as he wants.

Narrative and fiction in middle school: Mr. Graykin’s assertion that there is no reference to fiction writing is incorrect.

Narrative writing –  defined as “creative fictional stories, memoirs, anecdotes, and autobiographies” - is an important part of the Common Core standards in every grade.

The 8th grade Common Core standard for the narrative writing says,

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

a. Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

c. Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence, signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another, and show the relationships among experiences and events.

d. Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.

e. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

This standard clearly supports teaching as much fiction writing as the teacher decides is appropriate.  A teacher who thinks that fiction is more important than autobiography or memoir can make that choice.  The same techniques of narrative writing apply.  It’s the writing techniques, not the specific genres, that the standards want students to master.

For comparison, here is the GLE 8th grade standard for narrative writing:

In written narratives, students organize and relate a story line/plot/series of events by…

  • Creating a clear and coherent (logically consistent) story line
  • Establishing context, character, motivation, problem/conflict/challenge, and resolution, and maintaining point of view
  • Using a variety of effective transitional devices (e.g., ellipses, time transitions, white space, or words/phrases) to enhance meaning
  • Establishing and maintaining a theme
  • Providing a sense of closure

Could they be any closer?  So why all the new complaints about the Common Core?  Is it because New Hampshire developed its former standards with only a few New England states and participated, as hundreds of our teacher did, with many states to develop these standards?

Mr. Graykin and Prof. Newkirk may have criticisms about federalism, but the points they make about the standards themselves don’t hold up.  The standards will surely need to evolve, hopefully based on the experience of classroom teachers like Mr. Graykin.  But the political side of the debate doesn’t add much.

3-23-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Retirement, False Claims against Public Employees, and More

AFT NH Legislative Update

AFT NH Legislative UpdateWe are now entering the final week prior to “crossover” on Thursday, March 27.  The House will be in session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while the Senate will be in session on Thursday. Each will have to finish up on all their own bills by Thursday, after which they begin taking up those bills sent from the other chamber.

AFT-NH thanks the representatives that stood with us by voting to defeat:

  • HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid.
  • HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms.

We would have liked HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils to have been defeated as well but the House referred this bill to interim study.

HB 1122, (New Title) relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property was tabled (which AFT-NH supported),  because HB 1565-FN, establishing the crime of filing false lien or encumbrance against a public servant will be voted on this week with a recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee of ‘Ought to Pass As Amended’.

As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property. Unless you go to the Register of Deeds in your county and fill out paperwork to be notified of such actions, you would never know this lien existed until you wanted to sell your home. It could take up to a year to clear this up and could be very costly.

THIS WEEK THE HOUSE WILL BE VOTING ON THE FOLLOWING BILLS:

CONSENT CALENDAR

The Finance committee recommended ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’ on HB 1105-FN-L, relative to aid to school districts for costs of special education. AFT-NH asks that this recommendation be overturned and a motion of Ought To Pass be brought forward. AFT-NH supports this bill because it lifts the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully funds it. With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million to communities. Catastrophic aid is a state fund that helps local district with exorbitant special education costs for our severely disabled children.

The Finance recommended ‘Ought to Pass’ on HB 1494-FN,relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees. AFT-NH supports this recommendation. We were originally opposed to this bill as it was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

PART I OF THE CALENDAR

AFT-NH is in support of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

COMMON CORE AND THE SMARTER BALANCE STATE ASSESSMENT

There are several bills that will be voted on that are related to the Common Core and the Smarter Balance state assessment. I think it bears repeating where AFT-NH stands:

AFT-NH knows that a Recent AFT Poll found that 75 Percent of teachers support the Common Core standards, but it also found that they have not had enough time to understand them, put them into practice or discuss them with colleagues.

If these standards are to work we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice.
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class,
  • Provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • Ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • Communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students, AND
  • Develop best practices and strategies alone with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply.
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments, AND
  • Make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers.
  • Assessments need to be aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
  • Professional development and training in the Standards need to be offered, AND
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

We also know that:

States and districts must work with teachers to develop a high quality curriculum and professional development programming, provide teachers with the time needed to try out new methods of teaching to the standards in their classrooms, commit financial resources to ensure success, and engage parents and the community.

When assessing students, we need to make sure these tests inform teaching, not impede teaching and learning. All children deserve a rich, meaningful public education that prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and challenges that await them as they become contributing members of a democratic society.  Growing our nation’s future citizens and workers is a serious undertaking that calls for a thoughtful focus on teaching and learning. Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the growing fixation on high-stakes testing has undermined that focus, putting at grave risk our students’ learning and their ability to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy and fulfill their personal goals.

We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and that are aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.  Because each district is at different stages in their teacher/staff development and student curriculum changes that meet Common Core Standards and the assessment of their students, the Department of Education should waive the Smarter Balance testing deadline for at least another two years.

Further, we believe that assessments designed to support teaching and learning must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

PART II OF THE CALENDAR

The Finance committee recommended ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’ on HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH is in support of this bill and would like the committee recommendation to be overturned and a recommendation of Ought To Pass be brought forward. It puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many district have not been able to afford to complete upgrades, repairs or build new building because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and click “Like Us”
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS WEEK OF MONDAY, MARCH 24

TUESDAY, MARCH 25
10:00 a.m. House in Session

Senate COMMERCE, Room 101, LOB
1:15 p.m. HB 1404, relative to payroll cards.
1:35 p.m. HB 1405, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.
1:55 p.m. HB 1407, relative to privacy in the workplace.
2:15 p.m. HB 1188, relative to paycheck equity.

Senate HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 1132-FN, relative to school building security.

9:20 a.m. HB 1260-FN-L, relative to communication of the cost of services provided under the children in need of services (CHINS) program to parents.
9:40 a.m. HB 1113, requiring school districts to distribute a concussion and head injury information sheet to student-athletes and establishing a definition for head injury.
10:20 a.m. HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school.
EXECUTIVE SESSION

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
9:15 a.m. HB 1137-FN, relative to annulment of certain obstruction of justice crimes and relative to the crime of escape.
9:30 a.m. HB 1533-FN, requiring a warrant to search information in a portable electronic device.
9:45 a.m. HB 1144, establishing a committee to study information included in arrest records and access to information on the disposition of criminal cases.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26
10:00 a.m. House in Session

Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 100, SH
10:00 a.m. HB 1102, relative to membership of the police standards and training council.
10:20 a.m. HB 1222, prohibiting commercial use of the law enforcement and fallen firefighters memorials.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

THURSDAY, MARCH 27
10:00 a.m. House in Session

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 1
House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
11:30 a.m. SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body.

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
10:30 a.m. HB 1435, requiring law enforcement officials to disclose specific information relating to a police checkpoint.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2

House ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and expenditures and relative to reporting by political committees.
11:00 a.m. SB 183-FN, (New Title) relative to identification of voters, processing absentee ballots, and voluntary political expenditure limitations.

House JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 262-FN, revising the form for “summons instead of arrest” and prohibiting attachments in small claims actions.

THURSDAY, APRIL 3

House FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
11:15 a.m. SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

House FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:30 p.m. Work session on SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

THURSDAY, APRIL 10
House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 343, relative to the duties of the statewide education improvement and assessment program legislative oversight committee and repealing the school administrative unit legislative oversight committee.
11:00 a.m. SB 350, relative to the transfer of adequacy aid calculation data from the department of education to the department of revenue administration.
1:15 p.m. SB 348, establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools.

3-17-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: School Building Aid Bill, Retirement, Charter Schools, and More

AFT NH Legislative Update

AFT NH Legislative Update

Both the House and Senate are finishing work on their bills prior to the crossover deadline of March 27th (after which bills from one chamber can no longer cross-over to the other chamber for consideration).  The House will be meeting on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the next two weeks to finish up on bills and the Senate will be meeting Thursday the 27th to finish up. Then we start all over again with the House holding committee hearings on passed Senate bills and the Senate holding committee hearings on passed House bills.

This coming Wednesday and Thursday the House will be considering the following bills:

CONSENT CALENDAR

The Finance committee made the recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate‘ on HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH asks that this be taken off the consent calendar and the recommendation be overturned and a recommendation of ‘Ought To Pass’  be presented. AFT-NH supports this bill for it puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many districts have not been able to afford upgrades, repairs or build new buildings because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

REGULAR CALENDAR PART II

AFT-NH supports the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s recommendation of ‘Ought to Pass as amended’ on HB 1565-FN, establishing the crime of filing false lien or encumbrance against a public servant. As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property. Unless you go to the Register of Deeds in your county and fill out paperwork to be notified of such actions, you would never know this lien existed until you wanted to sell your home. It could take up to a year to clear this up and could be very costly.

AFT-NH supports the Executive Departments and Administration Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid. This bill is unnecessary for there is already a process in place for recouping overpayments, and this puts the entire onus on the employee, penalizing them when the error is more likely to be made on the other end.

AFT-NH is in support of the Executive Departments and Administration Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms. AFT-NH knows that this bill gives unprecedented authority to the executive director of the NHRS to apply punishments at his/her discretion to the employee, when part-time work reporting is both an employer and employee responsibility. To put all the onus on the employee is wrong.

AFT-NH would have like the Finance committee to recommend ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  and not ‘Referred Interim Study’ on HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils. Keep in mind that Charter Schools:

  • Do not accept all children that walk through their doors,
  • They entire teaching staff are not certified,
  • They do not take on all the responsibility of educating special education students but they  rely on the child’s local school system to offer services,
  • They do not take on the responsibility of transporting the students to school.
  • They do not have to follow all the laws and rules that current public schools follow.

Also remembers when a charter school opens, your local tax dollars, taken from your local school district budget, must pay for services for special education students attending the charter school.  If a charter school opens in your community your tax dollars are going to transport any student that lives in your community attending the charter school.  All of this is mandated by State law, and in a time when budgets are tight charter schools seem to be coming back and asking for more and more. And you have no say in the matter unless our local elected state leaders stand up and say “No more!”

AFT-NH is in support of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARING FOR THE WEEK OF MARCH 17, 2014

TUESDAY, MARCH 18

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on
HB 1122-FN, (New Title) relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property, –this is the same as HB 1565 which AFT-NH supports

RULES, Room 303, LOB
2:30 p.m. Regular meeting

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:30 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the department of education,

HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:30 a.m. Executive Session May Follow

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19

10:00 a.m. House in session

PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB
10:30 a.m. HB 297, relative to the management of trust funds and capital reserve funds and pertaining to library trustees.

THURSDAY, MARCH 20

10:00 a.m. House in session

AFT and In The Public Interest Launch ‘Cashing In On Kids’ Website To Expose For-Profit Education

AFT_Logo-2

AFT_Logo-2

WASHINGTON— This week, the American Federation of Teachers and In The Public Interest launched the website “Cashing in on Kids”–a one-stop shop for the facts about for-profit education in America. The site profiles five for-profit charter school operators: K12 Inc., Imagine Schools, White Hat Management, Academica and Charter Schools USA. It identifies several issues that need to be addressed in charter school policy, including public control, equity, transparency and accountability.

“For-profit charter schools that operate in the dark without basic public transparency and without strong public control too often put their bottom line ahead of the public interest and high-quality public education,” said ITPI Executive Director Donald Cohen.

“We want parents, educators and policymakers to be better informed about the impact of profit, money and private interests in education, particularly charter schools. We believe much more oversight is needed to protect students and taxpayers, but the information on this website is a means for others to see the facts and arrive at their own conclusions,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a way of calling the question: Is the rapid expansion of charter schools about helping kids learn or about enabling for-profit operators to rake in millions in tax dollars?”

The website analyzes the impact of profit-taking and privatization in charter schools, where student results are mixed and mismanagement is widespread.

For more information, visit http://cashinginonkids.com/.

Rep. Ken Weyler Introduces More Charter School Bills To The NH House Education Committee

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Rep. Weyler (R-Kingston) had two charter bills before the House Education Committee last week.  HB 1392 repeals  RSA 194-B:3-a, V(c), which says,

“Not more than 10 percent of the resident pupils in any grade shall be eligible to transfer to a chartered public school in any school year without the approval of the local school board.”

And HB 1393 requires school districts to pay charter schools a portion of the tuition under certain circumstances.

Taken together, the two bills promote accelerated growth of charter enrollments by enabling large scale replacement of district schools by charter schools as seen in recent years in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and other cities.

Here is Rep. Weyler’s testimony about HB 1392.  He does not really give a reason for wanting to remove the 10% limit on annual transfers.  He does make a couple of points, though.

At minute 0:50, Rep. Weyler says that NH charter enrollment will grow by only 50 students between this year and next.  However, NHDOE, working with the charter association, projects that charter enrollment will grow by 1,003 students, from 1,999 to 3,002.  That’s 50% – not 50 students.

Below, Rick Trombly, Executive Director of NEA-NH, testifies in opposition to the bill, saying that NEA-NH does not oppose charters in principle but that the methodology the NHDOE describes is right and does not need to be changed.

He says that the State should leave the limit in place and review the impact of a charter on the local public school as part of it’s analysis of a charter application.

He goes on to make the point that this bill should be considered in the context of HB 435, which increases charter funding and is currently under consideration in the House Finance Committee.  He says that when charters initially got going, advocates said, “We can do it.  We can fund these things.  We can raise the money.” At the time, NEA-NH predicted that contributions would be difficult to raise and that the schools would come to the State seeking a portion of the limited education funding available.  That has always an issue for the NEA and now that’s what’s happening.

Dean Michner, from the NH School Boards Association, then testifies mainly to the historical context, saying that the 10% annual cap was put in place to allow schools to plan in cases where specialized charters that might offer STEM courses, for instance, and draw students for whom the school had developed AP courses.

And here is Rep. Weyler’s presentation of HB 1393, as well as testimony from Dean Michener of the School Boards Association and Laura Hainey of the AFT opposing the bill.

The Smarter Balanced test makes good sense for New Hampshire

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The NECAP served its purpose

When the federal No Child Left Behind act required annual assessments of all public school students in grades 3-8 and 11, New Hampshire joined Rhode Island and Vermont – two other small states with small education budgets – to create the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). It was a fill-in-the-bubble, multiple choice test first administered in 2005.  Since 2009, Maine has used the NECAP as well.

…but the new Smarter Balanced test is much better

Now New Hampshire is part of a much larger consortium of states – the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium – developing a modern test aligned to the new Common Core standards.  This computer adaptive test (it adjusts the student’s questions to the students abilities) is far better than the NECAP and was judged in a major study by the Michigan Department of Education to be the best in the country.  And, instead of testing our students in the fall and getting the results in April, when they are no longer relevant, the Smarter Balanced test will be given in the spring and the results will be available almost immediately.

So we are getting a far better test as the same price as the old NECAP.  New Hampshire teachers I have talked to have been very impressed with the new test and are looking forward to using it in their classrooms.

 

Some large Republican states are writing their own tests, but that kind of inside baseball does not matter to New Hampshire

Common Core opponents have made much of the fact that some large states have chosen to write their own Common Core tests rather than participate in Smarter Balanced or the other national testing consortium, PARCC.  When you look at the states involved, two things stand out.  Every one of them has a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature.  These folks are making a political statement, not an educational statement.  And they are all from large states that can afford the luxury of writing their own tests, the quality of which is yet to be determined.

The important thing is to use the test to improve instruction

And, of course, the new tests they are (talking about) writing are Common Core tests.  No state has dropped its commitment to the Common Core.  In fact, it looks as if the tide has turned in that debate.  Even Diane Ravitch, a critic of the Common Core, now says, “Those that like them should use them…Most objections to the standards are caused by the testing….Use them to enrich instruction, but not to standardize it.”

That’s just what New Hampshire does.  Testing is used here primarily to improve instruction and very little for accountability.  In fact, the New Hampshire agreement with the federal government is that neither the 2015 test or the 2016 test will be used for evaluating teachers – and even after that it will get minimal use for accountability.

The State has taken a lead role in developing the test and, in any case, would not have fiscal capacity to develop its own test as some large states are doing.  The inside baseball about which Republican states have switched to a different test vendor makes no real difference to New Hampshire.

Original Posted on ANHPE.org

Are ‘School Vouchers’ Being Used To Teach Anti-Union Propaganda?

Image of page 361

History has always been on of my favorite subjects – and as Edmond Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

What if the history you were being taught differed from what really happened?  That is exactly what is happening inside the book “America Land I Love.

This book is written for eight graders but the inaccuracies in the book are astounding.  I will start with an easy one.

Image of page 361

Image of page 361

Yes, the title of the chapter is the ‘Rise of Big Government’.  Did you also see what the subchapter title was?  That‘s right, it is called the ‘New Deal and the Rise of Socialism in America’.

“Those who don’t know history…” etc.  If you look at the actual numbers of members in the Socialist Party, the New Deal might have been what caused the movement’s decline.

Membership in the Socialist Party actually peaked – at a grand total of about 20,000 members – in the early 1930’s, just as Congress was beginning to pass “New Deal” programs.   These days, there are about 7,000 members in the two Socialist parties, and another 2,000 members in the Communist party.

Not exactly what I’d call a “rising” movement.  But of course, I’m not the one writing 8th grade textbooks.

Let’s see what they say about the New Deal.

Image of page 369

Image of page 369

Well, they’re right about a couple of things.  FDR did succeed at stabilizing our nation’s banking system; and it stayed relatively stable until the 1980s Savings and Loan crisis.   And federal government programs did put people to work.  Congress also created Social Security, the program that still keeps millions of seniors from falling into poverty.  The fact is, New Deal policies helped America recover from the Great Depression.

I especially like the part that says, “The idea that government can live beyond its means is called Keynesian Economics, the creed of ‘tax and spend’ politicians.”   This is supposed to be a history book, not the editorial column.

The book goes on to say that under FDR, the government “began to operate on a deficit.”   But the word “began” is really misleading.  In fact, our country has had varying levels of deficits and debt since it was founded.  Our founding fathers borrowed money to pay for the Revolutionary War.  Alexander Hamilton’s view: “The United States debt, foreign and domestic, was the price of liberty.”

What the book author does not tell you is that after the New Deal, after WWII, the federal government had a budget surplus.  In 1948, that budget surplus equaled 4% of the GDP.

It seems obvious that the author wanted to impart his own ideology about government onto the students.

Let’s look at what he is telling our children about labor unions.

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Image of page 371

Excuse me, but that is not what the Wagner Act is about.  The Wagner Act is about blocking employers from taking certain actions against employees who want to join or form a union.

Where is the part about how unions pushed for the 40-hour workweek, overtime, child labor laws, or all of the other things that unions helped accomplish?  I am sure it will all be explained on the next page.

Image of page 372

Image of page 372

Nope. The author portrayed a peaceful, non-violent protest as an act of violence against the employer and the employer’s property.  I wonder what the Reverend Martin Luther King would have said about this.

As my friend Chris used to say, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.  I think the book’s author took this motto to heart.

Is this what they’re teaching children in private and religious schools?  And now they want you to pay for it?

That’s right, they want you to pay for their children to attend private schools, or take lessons at home using a ‘school voucher’ from your tax dollars.

This week many organizations are coming together for ‘National School Choice Week’.  It is an annual attempt to convince people that school vouchers are about ‘freedom and choice.’

From my perspective, school vouchers are about who is going to foot the bill for children to receive ideological indoctrination that masquerades as “education.” Who pays for “education” like what’s in this book “America Land I Love”?

In New Hampshire, 85 students were granted “scholarships” to the tune of $235,000 in school vouchers to continue to attend private or home schools.

So: are your tax dollars paying for schools that teach children the ideology that government is bad, and that unions used violent actions to demand ‘higher wages and certain working conditions’?

Are your tax dollars paying for schools that reject proven scientific facts about the creation of our plant, evolution, climate change, and many more topics?

This is one of the reasons that the New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled that vouchers could not be used for private religious schools.

However, other states have yet to make that ruling, and are continuing to use vouchers to pay for private religious schools.

My perspective: If you want to teach your children something other than the truth, that’s your decision as a parent.  But I don’t want you using my tax dollars to pay for it.

* * * * * * *

Images from: America Land I Love In Christian Perspective, Second Edition; A Beka Book, copyright 2006, Pensacola Christian College. (http://www.abeka.com/ABekaOnline/BookDescription.aspx?sbn=97578)

New Hampshire Vouchers: The Choice Nobody Is Taking

NH Voucher

NH Voucher

Once a year, in effort somehow convince people that private charter schools are better than public schools, organizations like ‘Students First’ are pushing ‘National School Choice Week’.  This once a year event floods the media with stories about how school vouchers are working or that school vouchers are a better use of your tax dollars.  This is all complete hogwash.

The simple truth is that people are not choosing to change schools and the school vouchers program is more about getting taxpayers to pay for private religious schools.

After the red tide of Republican legislators took Concord (NH) by storm in the 2010 elections things quickly began to change. The GOP controlled legislature quickly passed their version of a school ‘voucher’ program, giving businesses a tax credit for scholarships to private schools, and slashed the state budget.

The voucher program has been in effect now for over a year so we should be able to see the thousands of people who were waiting in line to execute their ‘choice’.

Bill Duncan a local public school advocate queried the state to see exactly how many people in the Granite State applied for scholarships under the new program.  In a response from the Department of Education they stated, “the voucher program says that no more than 15 public school students will receive scholarships in the first year of the program.”

Only 15 public school students applied for the scholarship. I guess the voucher program is not as popular as the GOP tried to make people believe when they passed the bill.  The low number of applications could be due in part to the rejection by the NH Supreme Court that clearly stated that public funds could not go to religious schools.

In a recent blog post on Advancing New Hampshire’s Public Education, Bill Duncan said, “The voucher program is an embarrassment to the Republican legislative majority that passed the bill last year over the Governor’s veto.”

As they did here in New Hampshire, ALEC pushed a school voucher program right into Republican controlled Legislature.  States controlled by Republican Legislatures are pushing similar bills throughout the country.

“This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.” via States Redefining Public Schooling – NYTimes.com

Kansas and Idaho recently rejected the voucher credit program, despite opposition from the Republican Legislators.

It has become painfully obvious that some of the members of the NH Legislature are making the wrong choice.  They claim that the voucher program is about helping families who cannot afford to attend a private school with the financial assistance needed to attend the school of their choice.  The people of New Hampshire have made their choice, and they have chosen to stay in their local public schools.

Legislators do need to make a new choice, to properly fund our public schools.  The current trend to cut funding to ‘save money’ is harming our children.  At least once a month my children come home from school with a request letter for classroom supplies.  The school cannot afford to supply things like paper towels, cleaning supplies, and many other basic classroom needs.

One of my friends, who I will refer to as ‘Jane’, works in a school in one of the more affluent towns in New Hampshire.  Jane is an art teacher and as they start the second half of the year they are already out of black construction paper and glue sticks. Really, how can an art class that is out of construction paper and glue?

The week lets make the choice to do what is right for our children by calling our legislators and demanding better funding for our public education system.