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What Politicians’ Votes Say About Their Values

In politics, there are some things that everyone is for—like good schools, low taxes for the middle class, and good public services.

When politicians vote, we see where their values truly lie.

The New Hampshire legislative session that ended in June was no different.  On many issues we saw a huge gulf between the opening rhetoric, and the actual votes–and a stark contrast between the Republicans and the Democrats.

Public schools

In Concord, everyone speaks highly of the public schools.  Everyone’s favorite this year was state funding for full-day kindergarten.  But when it came time to fund kindergarten, the differences became clear.

The Republicans wrote a budget that provided an additional $1 million of tax dollars a year for charter schools.  Full-day kindergarten will receive no state tax dollars.  Instead, we will have Keno (video slot machines) to fund kindergarten.  The Lottery Commission estimates we will realize $9 million a year from Keno—but at what cost in gambling addiction, personal bankruptcies, and broken homes?

The basic amount of state aid to the public schools is about $3600 per student per year.  Charter schools receive almost twice as much—about $6600 per student—but none of it is from the local property tax, which allows charter schools to present the fiction that they don’t cost taxpayers anything.

Tax cuts

Politicians love tax cuts.  It’s their chance to play Santa Claus.  At the end of the legislative session, we find that some taxpayers are ‘naughty’ and get a lump of coal, while some are ‘nice’ and get a tax cut.  This year was no different.

At the beginning of the session, it was proposed that the State resume paying part of the retirement system cost for schools and municipalities.  The goal was to provide a $40 million tax cut to property taxpayers.  The Republicans in the legislature said ‘no way.’

Tax cuts for big business were another matter.  The state budget includes a big cut in the Business Profits Tax.  This is a tax that virtually no small business pays, because they pay their profits out as salaries to their owners, reducing their taxable income to zero.  70% of the cut will go to approximately 500 of our largest, most-profitable businesses, particularly national and multinational firms.

Score this as big business 1, property taxpayers 0.

Setting Budget Priorities

In every budget process, wants exceed revenue.  When budget priorities are set, it reveals the values of the budget writers.

During each budget cycle in Concord, Republicans treat it like a morality play, where they tell the Democrats that they have to live within their allowance.

The reality is that the Democrats go to bat each year for the property taxpayers, the poor, the disabled, the University System, the sick and the elderly, while the Republicans go to bat for big business and the wealthy.  Most of the time, the Republicans win.

Every budget year, Republicans say we do not have enough revenue to make UNH affordable, eliminate the waiting list for the severely disabled, restore our community mental health system, fund Medicaid, or provide property tax relief.

And every budget year, Democrats ask why the wealthy are not paying their fair share of taxes.  New Hampshire has one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation.  On average, the poor pay over 8% of their incomes in tax.  The middle pays about 6%.  The top pays about 3%.

Our tax system is regressive because New Hampshire relies on the property tax for over two-thirds of all state and local tax revenue.  Since 2000, the legislature has repeatedly down-shifted obligations to the local level.  Meanwhile, the total of property taxes collected in NH has doubled.  Very few people have seen their incomes double during that same time period.

Representative Dick Ames, Democrat of Jaffrey, proposed a reform of the Interest and Dividends tax that would have reduced the tax on small savers, and broadened the tax to include capital gains.  The State would have realized about $100 million in new revenue–mostly from our wealthiest residents.  Predictably, the bill failed on a nearly party-line vote.  And the underfunding of the safety net, the short-changing of higher education, and the down-shifting to the property taxpayer will continue for another two years.

Legislating is about making choices.  Our Republican legislature has made clear that it values charter schools more the public schools; thinks businesses need a tax cut, but homeowners do not; and would rather underfund UNH and the safety net, than ask the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.

It’s all about choices.  You get to make your choice next year.

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor.  He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

Governor Hassan Announces Partnership to Enhance High-Speed Broadband in New Hampshire Schools

 CONCORD – As part of her efforts to ensure a strong K-12 public school system that helps students develop the skills and innovative thinking needed for success in the 21st century, Governor Maggie Hassan and New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Virginia Barry announced a new partnership – the New Hampshire School Connectivity Initiative (NHSCI) – aimed at enhancing access to high-speed broadband at New Hampshire’s K-12 public schools.


“Ensuring that our students have the skills and innovative thinking needed for good jobs in the 21st century economy is critical to New Hampshire’s future, and access to high-speed broadband is a critical tool in preparing our young people for success,” Governor Hassan said. “Broadband is an essential component of a modern economy’s infrastructure, and by expanding access to broadband in K-12 public schools throughout New Hampshire, the New Hampshire School Connectivity Initiative will open doors for our students and broaden educational opportunities across all curriculum, including critical STEM areas, helping to better prepare them for future success.”


Led by DOE’s Office of Educational Technology, NHSCI is a collaboration between DOE, the New Hampshire Department of Information Technology, the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, and the University of New Hampshire.


In order to meet K-12 connectivity goals and ensure that all New Hampshire public school students have the opportunity to engage in digital learning, NHSCI will facilitate statewide K-12 fiber network discussions with school districts, service providers, and partner organizations; maximize discounted communication services provided to schools and libraries across the state through Federal Communication Commission’s E-Rate funding program; and continue efforts to analyze and strengthen a comprehensive K-12 connectivity report.


The initiative has also signed an agreement with EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit organization that supports increased broadband connectivity in public schools and will provide its services free of charge to NHSCI to help New Hampshire’s K-12 schools and districts connect to scalable high-speed broadband.


“Improving connectivity to schools and libraries across the state will enhance e-learning and online content, which can provide more personalized learning opportunities for students,” said Commissioner of Education, Virginia M. Barry, Ph.D. “Broadband can also facilitate the flow of information, helping teachers, parents, schools and other organizations to make better decisions tied to each student’s needs and abilities.”


Chris Christie Flees To New Hampshire To Avoid His Major Problems In New Jersey

Chris Christie (Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

Chris Christie (Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

This week, Chris Christie announced his candidacy for President. Unfortunately, with a historic nine credit downgrades, and near last in the nation for job growth, things aren’t going so great back home in New Jersey and his constituents are not so happy about it. Let’s recap: 

And let’s not leave out Christie’s local papers blasting him with scathing editorials that detail his failed leadership and question why he’s running at all.

“Christie wants to expand economic opportunity to all? Then why did he increase taxes on the working poor, kill the state’s affordable housing efforts, and veto a minimum wage hike? He believes in compromise? Then why is Trenton locked in the same kind of partisan stalemate we see in Washington? He believes in leadership? Then why isn’t he doing something about the crumbling bridges, the worsening fiscal crisis, or the sputtering economy?…

And it’s not all Bridgegate, either. That started the descent, and exposed the dark underbelly of his brash style, and the craven culture of this administration. Christie’s collapse, at its core, is about more than all that. It is about the failure of governing in New Jersey.” Star-Ledger Editorial Board

“The greater problem, however, is his record: Even if Christie can outrun the opposition and the scandal, it’s difficult to grasp what he would run on.

While styling himself a pragmatic decider who gets stuff done, Christie has presided over a period of fiscal deterioration and economic stagnation. The budget he just signed required his lawyers to extricate him from the pension reforms he touted as a signature bipartisan achievement. The reversal was at stark odds with his proclamation Tuesday: ‘I mean what I say and I say what I mean.’” Philly Inquirer Editorial Board

NJ Advance Media commentator Brian Donohue explains why Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential bid is nothing but bad news for the state of New Jersey.
(Five ways Christie’s presidential run stinks for New Jersey Video by Brian Donohue and Bumper DeJesus | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The people at YouGotSchooled2016 are back talking about how this years round of Presidential hopefuls faired in their home states especially on issues of education.

  • Public schools: It’s kind of weird that Chris Christie chose to announce he is running for president at a public school when he has slashed education funding by a billion dollars.
  • Higher education: New Jersey’s higher education funding fell from its peak of $2.33 billion in 2006 (pre Gov. Christie) to $1.93 billion in 2013, a 17 percent decline. Thanks, Gov. Christie.
  • Teachers: Aside from the cuts to public education, if you’re a teacher you better avoid Chris Christie all together, unless you want to get yelled at.

But of course, Christie blames the media instead of taking responsibility for his own failed leadership. 

“As Chris Christie continues his tour through New Hampshire, he’s abandoned his own state after years of failed leadership in pursuit of his political ambitions. Granite Staters won’t be fooled by his excuses. Chris Christie’s reckless abuse of power and helping his allies have done nothing but left middle class families in the dust,” said Lizzy Price, Communications Director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

The biggest warning of all came from one of the largest newspapers in New Jersey. “After 14 years of watching Christie, a warning: He lies,” wrote Tom Moran editorial board of the Star Ledger.

“Most Americans don’t know Chris Christie like I do, so it’s only natural to wonder what testimony I might offer after covering his every move for the last 14 years.”

‘…Don’t misunderstand me. They all lie, and I get that. But Christie does it with such audacity, and such frequency, that he stands out.”

“…But let’s start with my personal favorite. It dates back to the 2009 campaign, when the public workers unions asked him if he intended to cut their benefits. He told them their pensions were “sacred” to him.”

Chris Christie is a smooth politician that knows how to say what the people in the room want to hear. He is also a brash, overbearing, jerk who continually demeans reporters and people who challenge him on issues.  Christie’s failed leadership doesn’t make him fit to be president of my local PTA, never mind the President of the United States.

Governor Hassan Launches Statewide School Safety Initiative in Londonderry

Enhancements to School Emergency Notification System to Improve School Safety by Reducing Response Times

LONDONDERRY – As part of her efforts to strengthen the safety of New Hampshire’s schools and communities, Governor Maggie Hassan joined the Londonderry Police Department, local school officials and New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) Director Perry Plummer at Londonderry High School to launch a new statewide school safety initiative that enhances school emergency notification systems.

The new software, COPsync911, improves communication between schools and police departments by enabling school computers to connect to and alert dispatch without going through E-911. The enhanced system will reduce response times in an emergency, sending an alert to the law enforcement officers closest to the school.

“Ensuring public safety, especially for our schools and our young people, is state government’s most important responsibility,” Governor Hassan said. “This enhanced emergency notification system will improve school security, providing a real-time school threat alert solution that notifies dispatch and the closest law enforcement officers.”

The new emergency notification software will be installed in six Londonderry schools and 14 police cruisers. The schools involved with the new initiative are Moose Hill School, South Elementary School, Matthew Thornton Elementary School, North Elementary School, Londonderry Middle School and Londonderry High School.

The project is funded by a federal Emergency Management Performance Grant awarded to HSEM by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the grant was approved by the Executive Council on September 17. HSEM worked closely with New Hampshire’s police chiefs who have identified the new system as a priority.

The initiative is also underway in Lincoln, and approximately 20 additional communities across the state have applied for Emergency Management Performance Grants to install the enhanced school emergency notification systems.

“This important new school safety initiative will strengthen the ability of local police departments to respond to an emergency situation in real-time, reducing response times and saving valuable minutes and seconds by ensuring that the closest law enforcement officer is quick to the scene,” HSEM Director Plummer said.

“This program laudable on its own, serves as a further reminder of the trust-based partnership that exists between the Londonderry Schools and the Londonderry Police Department,” said Londonderry Chief of Police William Hart. “COPSync is a reflection of our mutual commitment to securing the safety of our school community.”

Since entering office, Governor Hassan has made the safety of New Hampshire’s communities, citizens and schools her top priority. Under her leadership, HSEM targeted grants toward improving school safety and offered new training for law enforcement to help them deal with potential active-shooter situations.

Her bipartisan budget put more State Troopers on the road, maintained drug task force teams, funded the Cold Case Unit, restored the Children in Need of Services program and invested in school safety. The Governor also launched a public-private initiative aimed at helping reduce and prevent youth violence through Media Power Youth’s media literacy program.

Guest Column: Not All Teachers Are Supportive Of The New Common Core Standards In NH

Editor’s Note: The Common Core has been discussed at great length by many different people.  Everyone has their own opinion on the new CCSS.  The NHLN has taken the position that CCSS is good but not without faults.  L Graykin submitted this Op/Ed to the NHLN as a way to show that not all teachers agree with the way that CCSS is being unrolled.  

The views of Mr Graykin in no way reflect the news of the NHLN and are intended to provide more background and explain some of the opposition to the CCSS in hopes that we can find ways to move forward together.

Photograph: Getty Images

Photograph: Getty Images

Not All Teachers Are Supportive Of The New Common Core Standards In NH
By L. Graykin

common core iconI have been a proud member of NH-NEA and NEA since I first began teaching. I am strongly pro-union and strongly pro-NEA. When an article about my classroom was featured on the front page of NH-NEA’s “Educator” publication (Jan. 2012), it was one of my proudest professional moments.  That’s part of what has made it so frustrating for me to watch NEA’s administrators make such glaring missteps, standing for and, even worse, promoting Common Core.

In an 1/14/14 EdWeek article, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel is quoted as having said, “When I sit on panels and someone chastises us for supporting the Common Core, I always ask: ‘Are there specific things you believe should not be there?’ I never get an answer.  Second, I ask, ‘What’s missing?’ I don’t get an answer. And the third thing I ask is, ‘What is the alternative? What do you want? Standards all over the ballpark, tests all over the ballpark?’ ” He continued later, saying, “The Common Core State Standards are our best guess of what students need to know to be successful, whether they choose college or careers. If someone has a better answer than that, I want to see it.”

Mercedes Schneider, in her 1/18/14 “Deutsch29” blog, answered Van Roekel in her own way.

Peter Greene, in his 1/19/14 “Curmudgucation” blog, answered him in his own way.

Now it’s my turn, with due thanks to NH Labor News for hosting my comments.

“Are there specific things that should not be there?”

YES.  The standards are not developmentally appropriate, especially as the lowest grades. Dr. Joseph Ricciotti, a former elementary school principal, wrote in a Connecticut Post Op-Ed, “Sadly, what we are are also experiencing with the Common Core Elementary Standards for these very young children is stress as many of these vulnerable young children are not prepared for this level of education.” And he goes on to quote others:

In a recent speech given by the noted child psychologist, Dr. Megan Koschnick at the American Principles Project (APP) in Washington, DC, she cited how the CCSS “will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.” Likewise, Dr. Carla Horowitz of the Yale Child Student Center claims, “the Common Core asks small children to behave like little adults and they are not little adults.” Noted child development expert, Dr. David Elkind wrote two books, The Hurried Child and Miseducation, citing how schools have had a downward extension of the curriculum which has impacted children in their early years of schooling with inappropriate and test-driven instruction. He also believes that “miseducation” in the early years can leave the child with lifelong emotional disabilities.

Professor Tom Newkirk of UNH writes, “…these standards are one more example of magical thinking: the universalization of ‘advanced placement.’ The framers of the common-core standards have consistently taken a level of proficiency attained by the most accomplished students and made it a general expectation.”

“What’s missing?”

PLENTY. I teach writing at the middle school level, so I’m most familiar with those standards. In NH, we had robust, teacher-created standards that are being replaced with Common Core, and the losses are dramatic. Specifically, the mention of writing fiction is reduced to TWO WORDS:  The standards refer to writing narratives, “…whether real or imagined….”  That’s it. No other reference to fiction. And these are standards for middle schoolers, who live and breathe and learn through the flexing of their imaginations.

But even worse? There are NO standards for the writing of poetry. None. (This might not be such a problem if the Common Core Standards could be modified by districts, but they are copyrighted, and the creators require that once adopted, no more than 15% curricular content can be added.) Do you know any middle school girls? Do you know how important poetry is to some of them? Isn’t it obvious that poetic devices, practiced in the liberating realm of poetry, are eventually going to creep into an author’s prose, improving it?

But enough of the rhetorical questions; let’s ask one that can be answered. Why did two members of the Common Core Validation Committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky  and Dr. James Milgram, refuse to sign off on the academic quality of the standards? Was it something present that shouldn’t be there, or something lacking that should have been included?  Stotsky writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they both felt the CCSS were insufficient to prepare high school students for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers. Read more here: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2013/dec/02/should-american-high-schools-prepare-any-students-/

“What is the alternative? What do you want? Standards all over the ballpark, tests all over the ballpark?”

First, this (inaccurately) presupposes that the state standards which were being used were all randomly fired buckshot, wholly incompatible with one another, and insufficient in every case. (If that were so, how was NH able to be in a group with Vermont and Rhode Island that used the common NECAP assessment?)  Second, it implies that national standards are preferable…but doesn’t indicate how, or why. Third, it ignores the fact that professional teaching associations such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Council of Teachers of Math had already done this work, and disseminated it to an impressive percentage of teachers nationwide. If we really need national standards–and I am not convinced that we do, or even that they are Constitutional–then why not look to these professional organizations for educator-created, developmentally appropriate options?

There is much more I could say in opposition to the Common Core:

  • The rollout of the standards–which were specifically designed to build on each other from academic year to academic year–is happening all at once instead of starting at Kindergarten and “growing up” with the students each year;
  • The role of corporate money in the rollout;
  • The fact that these are untested standards, and that no mechanism is in place to revise or adapt them as their inadequacies become evident;
  • And most importantly, the misdirection from the real problem our schools are facing today: poverty.
  • Others have already written eloquently on those points, though, and I’ve compiled some of the best arguments here:commoncorecriticisms.wikispaces.com

Perhaps Mr. Van Roekel and the NEA will acknowledge the problems inherent in the national adoption of untested, unchangeable, unsound standards. (Even if they are Van Roekel’s idea of somebody’s “best guess.”)  Perhaps the corporate grants–significant funds offered in difficult financial times–are too appealing. Until there is a change, though, I will continue to play the role of the squeaky-wheeled conscience that my union seems to need me to play.

*        *     *    *     *

L. Graykin teaches ELA at Barrington (NH) Middle School. His classroom was most recently written about in Parenting NH magazine.

AFT-NH Special Alert: Stand Up For Your Schools

aft sqaureThis is a special message from AFT-NH President Laura Hainey asking for your help to get school budgets passed.
The following school district budgets are under attack at deliberative sessions over the next several days. We know based on mailings, letters to the editor and web sites there are real threats to these budgets. The naysayers rely on the fact that we won’t show up—but we will when the education of our children is at stake.

If you live in the Timberlane Regional School District, Hillsboro-Deering School District or Hudson School District, PLEASE attend your deliberative session and support the school budgets. Some of the threatened cuts suggested run so deep as to significantly impact programs and loss of more positions.  The proposed budgets have already been significantly reduced and do not provide for room to make such significant cuts.

Talk to your friends, neighbors and colleagues and ask them to attend the meetings! Your voice matters and your can control the destiny of your schools and protect public education in your town.

Please reach out to your local union leadership for additional questions and for the latest information.

Stand Up For Your Schools!

Hudson School District Deliberative Session – Saturday, February 1st  9:00am  (Community Center-Lions Hall)

Hillsboro-Deering School District-Monday, February 3rd at 7:00pm
(Hillsboro-Deering Middle School Cafetorium)

Timberlane Regional School District- Thursday, February 6th at 7:00pm
(Timberlane Regional High School-Performing Arts Center)

In Solidarity,

Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

AFT President Randi Weingarten’s Statement On The 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty

Washington—Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty.

“Fifty years after our nation declared an unconditional war on poverty, the battle rages on. For too many of our families, the American dream has slipped further and further out of reach. The need to eradicate poverty and create opportunity and shared prosperity is as great now as it was 50 years ago.

“Today, nearly 22 percent of our children, and nearly 50 million Americans, live in poverty. Half of all public school children are poor—and the numbers are even higher in the South and the West. No nation can achieve economic and educational justice and shared growth and prosperity while ignoring gross inequality. For too long, our nation has pursued an agenda of austerity and trickle-down economics that has failed to propel Americans into the middle class.

“Government alone is not a solution for all of society’s problems. But in a capitalist democracy, government has an obligation to ensure basic economic and educational opportunity for all its citizens. That means valuing and respecting work through an adequate minimum wage, real immigration reform and ensuring working people have the freedom to form strong unions. It means reclaiming the promise of public education with strong neighborhood public schools, and investing in pre-K, multiple pathways to graduation and wraparound services to address the social, emotional and health needs of children. And it means guaranteeing a basic safety net to keep our families healthy and secure and to ensure that, after a lifetime of hard work, we can retire with dignity.”

The PISA Results Are In So What Does That Mean? AFT Explains

Today the mainstream media was quick to jump on the PISA school rankings. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a ranking of schools worldwide that occurs every three years.

The results are clear, what we are doing in the United States is not working.  The current political agenda to attack teachers, slash budgets, and starve our public schools is actually moving us backwards.

Everyone knows and understands that we need to make changes in our schools.  The key is how we make those changes. What changes are truly going to help our children learn and grow?

The President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, released the following statement after the results we announced.

“Today’s PISA results drive home what has become abundantly clear: While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top—focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools—has failed to improve the quality of American public education. Sadly, our nation has ignored the lessons from the high-performing nations. These countries deeply respect public education, work to ensure that teachers are well-prepared and well-supported, and provide students not just with standards but with tools to meet them—such as ensuring a robust curriculum, addressing equity issues so children with the most needs get the most resources, and increasing parental involvement. None of the top-tier countries, nor any of those that have made great leaps in student performance, like Poland and Germany, has a fixation on testing like the United States does.

“The crucial question we face now is whether we have the political will to move away from the failed policies and embrace what works in high-performing countries so that we can reclaim the promise of public education.”

After the 2009 PISA report, Weingarten visited the top-performing nations of Japan, China, Singapore, Finland, Canada and Brazil to talk with teachers, principals, students and government officials about what makes their systems work for students, teachers and parents. Many of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s recommendations informed the AFT’s Quality Education Agenda and its Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education  principles.

AFT also released a short five-minute video that explains how we can learn from the PISA results.  The results show that we need to be supporting our teachers and creating an environment of mutual collaboration with our teachers unions.

We also need to look deeply at two of the major factors impacting our schools. The poverty level of the students, and the continual budget cuts that are starving our schools.

While pundits on the right say we are overpaying for our children’s education the truth is far from that.  We also fall far behind many of the other countries in funding for schools in impoverished areas.

See what the facts are behind the media headlines in the PISA results.

Read more on how we are ‘starving our public schools’ and AFT’s plan to ‘Reclaim the Promise’ of public education.

According to our teachers, the Common Core Standards are already a success in NH

Posted by Bill Duncan of ANHPE

Legislators and school boards are hearing from advocates wanting to roll back the new Common Core State Standards. Fortunately, while this political push has been building, New Hampshire educators have been gaining experience with the new standards.  And among educators who have actually implemented the standards, there appears to be almost universal support.  Here is some of what they say:

New Franklin School (K-5), Portsmouth

Asked how it feels to be moving toward Common Core standards,  Angela Manning said,

It’s overwhelming, of course, because it’s a big shift” she said matter-of-factly.  ”It’s been interesting, though, to watch the kids step up to the level of deeper thinking that we’re asking them to do.  We’ve done persuasive writing in the past but this is the first time it’s been research based.  

In this particular project, we started with debating, on two different teams.  After that it just progressed.  I didn’t have to say, ‘Now let’s do a research-based writing project.’  The kids said, ‘Let’s research something,’ and decided on ‘Do fast food restaurants cause obesity?’  They’re writing this essay together as teams.  The next one they’ll do alone.

….Our teachers are saying, “Ok. This is a standard that we have to teach and we’re going to make it applicable to our students so it’s meaningful. How can we make it best for kids’ learning? The bigger things that are coming out of Common Core are that the thinking required will benefit these kids.

Bakersville Elementary (K-5), Manchester

Principal Judy Adams says,

Common Core will be challenging because of the depth of understanding required – especially for children who are language deficient – the ability to explain and show evidence of your thinking and be able to go to the argument level with something.  It’s much deeper than what we’ve done in the past.

White Mountains Regional School District, Whitefield

Superintendent Harry Fensom:

Educators see the value in the Common Core.  It’s going to close the gap [between slower and faster learners].  It’s going to reduce the need for remediation.  It’s going to make kids better prepared for college.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, Melissa Keenan:

“Our teachers are now fully implementing the Common Core.  We’ll be fully implemented this year.  We’re ahead of schedule.  And the teachers are loving it.  We’ve developed standards based report cards.  We’ve developed some common assessments.  We’re working in increments across the grade levels.  We’re really pushing teachers to get to know those standards, to identify which ones they don’t understand.

We also have math and reading specialists who work with our teachers on a weekly basis to help them work through the standards and understand them better.

Teacher Coach:

Are the standards high?  Absolutely.  But have we scaffholded it so they can get here and have we had our expectations raised to meet that standard?  Yes.  And they’re doing it.

We raised the teachers’ expectations first and let them know what’s coming and then you can move on to raising the kids expectations.  The teachers say, “This is what we’ve gotta do, so let’s get them there.”  For veteran teachers, this is a no-brainer.  They are the most willing to say this [implementing the Common Core] is possible.

Many of our math teachers, when they first looked at the standards, they were scared and skeptical about their ability to meet those standards.  But then the realized that a hands-on approach might make those students learn quicker than an academic approach.  I’ve seen them having children experience the math with hands-on things as opposed to, “here are some equations you need to learn.” They’re saying, “We need to be sure we’re providing enough experiences to kids so that they’re internalizing these things.”  They are modifying their instructional practices to meet the standards.  So I do seem them working hard at that.

We can have lessons.  We can have activities.  But let’s make sure that they’re tied to the standard.  What is your goal for that activity and does it tie to what the standard is.

Melissa Keenan again:

The Common Core advocates for a much more integrated view of learning.  In order to get a handle on the Common Core, we had to start at a literal level.  What are the bits of knowledge that we wanted the kids to learn and teachers had to wrap their heads around that.  And now that they’re doing that, they’re beginning to see, “Oh, I can teach a text of this genre and be writing about it and addressing multiple standards at the same time.

From the Portsmouth Herald:

Mary Lyons, assistant superintendent of SAU 50, the district covering Rye, Greenland, Newington and New Castle, said any criticism of the Common Core she has seen from the public is due a lack of understanding or the spread of misinformation. Teachers will still have the autonomy to be creative when it comes to running their classrooms and won’t be constrained by the standards, she said.

“It’s not like it’s a new idea to be responsible for standards,” she said.


Portsmouth Middle School English teacher Melissa Provost said she worries the emphasis will come at the expense of classic literature.

“The Common Core has forced me to rethink my curriculum lessons while maintaining a grasp on my personal reasons for teaching this subject matter — to inspire students to become lifelong readers, writers and thinkers,” she said.


Provost said it takes time to inspire middle schoolers and immerse them in a novel, and she often reads books aloud, asking students to make connections to the text, problem solve, take notes and write across different genres.

“Most importantly, I dramatize while modeling the craft of reading and they listen and learn,” she said. “My job is to open their minds via reading and writing. I’m not insinuating Common Core does not support this, but with the push for us to focus 70 percent of our studies (across the grade) on informational text, it greatly reduces the amount of time I have to let creativity and inspiration happen organically.”

Portsmouth Middle School math teacher Christine Kwesell had a different perspective. She said she is excited that the Common Core is striving to build deeper meaning when it comes to math concepts. She said the shifts have already been happening, but become more intentional with the implementation of the standards.

“There’s a model for excellent teaching. The Common Core supports that model,” she said. “It changes what we do in the classrooms with the kids, in a good way.”


“It’s definitely a difference. I think the difference really is around, in many cases, shifting some content from one grade level to another,” said Portsmouth Assistant Superintendent Steve Zadravec.


The adage among educators is that lesson plans used to be “a mile wide and an inch deep,” covering many topics but lacking the depth for students to achieve true mastery of the concepts.

Lyons said the Common Core establishes high standards, but focuses on a smaller number of standards to encourage a greater depth of learning.

“The standards are very clear (compared to the old standards),” she said. “I feel that our teachers are happy with that. They find them easier to read and understand. … We’re excited about the challenge.”


The standards are promoting a transition from the “sage on the stage” who lectures students from the front of the classroom to the “coach on the side” who works with students on strategies to meet the challenge ahead, Hopkins said.

“What I see it doing is refining us,” she said. “Good teaching always asks kids to think on their own. This moves us one step closer to shooting toward that goal. I see it as a positive thing.”

The Exchange on NHPR

Nicole Heimarck:

[Common Core] is about more rigor – more rigor…in what students need to know and, equally important, its about rigor in what students can do, skills.  So we have spent a lot of time in our district discussing “habits of mind”…the notion of students being able to persevere, whether it’s in mathematics or reading – is very significant in these standards and its significant in our culture, in our communities….One of the big shifts we’re finding is that instead of students doing 35 or 40 math problems, they’re digging deep into one or two math problems – and challenging problems, problems that require them to think critically, to come up with multiple solutions…You need to have high expectations…and students feel a great deal of success when they recognize that they have accomplished something truly difficult.

Debra Armsfield:

We’re spending a great deal of time on creating teacher capacity, because there are great differences in what we’re asking teachers to do now.

We anticipate that there will be a period in which we won’t be able to meet [the standards] necessarily, right out of the gate, but I think if you get the ultimate goal, which is college and career readiness, when we look ahead at what this might look like 5, 6,7 years down the road, it will be worth it in the end and I think that’s the general consensus from folks.

How big a change is the Common Core?

It’s a complete overhaul.  The way we’re doing business is very different.  There are others things in our State that are linked…We are looking at teachers setting student learning objectives…the way we’re looking at assessments and shifting into standards-based assessments…so there’s an awful lot that’s inherent in some of these shifts.

For a 3rd grade student, one of the things that you’re going to note would be a greater focus on math fluency and “habits of mind” and just thinking about mathematics…You’re going to see a greater emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving…You’ll see fewer concepts but taught as greater depth and higher levels of understanding…

You’re not going to leave anything by the wayside but you’re going shift the point at which things are introduced…the “progression of learning”…when is it most appropriate for certain concepts to be introduced…If we know that we want students entering algebra, what are the skills that students need to acquire?  And then [the standards] have just shifted where those skills are acquired.

What do you mean by “habits of mind?”

When we refer to habits of mind, we’re talking about how students think and problem solve.  We’re talking about a variety of things – how they communicate their thinking…understanding as a human being what your process is, as opposed to that rote learning and memorization.

Amy Parsons (5th grade teacher):

How far along are you in teaching the Common Core?

Our kids at the 5th grade level are feeling very comfortable with the language of the Common Core.  Our district has been working toward full implementation this year….The teachers have had a lot of professional development and experience in using them. 

I really am enjoying the Common Core in the fact that I can integrate especially the language arts piece of it across my content areas…I have the benefit of being able to look at a lot of that nonfiction during my social studies time…and I think it lends itself really nicely to integration with science and social studies.


Vouchers Are A Failed Experiment And Must End – From Bill Duncan @ANHPE

Here is Bill Duncan’s letter in today’s Portsmouth Herald, responding to a letter from a voucher supporter a few days ago.

Sept. 16 — To the Editor:

Arlene Quaratiello said in her angry defense of the voucher tax credit program (Sept. 16 letter), that I am responsible for the lack of public support. I would just point out that, 2-1, public school parents have opposed using state money to send children to private schools. That’s the real reason that, out of 1,000 scholarship applicants, so few came from public school families.

New Hampshire businesses never supported the program, either. They help New Hampshire’s public schools every day, but the Business and Industry Association took no position on vouchers, and businesses didn’t testify in support of the program. It is no surprise that they do not contribute now.

And there is no question that the Network for Educational Opportunity has violated the voucher law (details at www.anhpe.org), as program reports will make this clear at the end of the year.

But do you notice in Ms. Quaratiello’s letter how nothing is ever NEO’s fault? The lack of support from parents and business is my fault. It’s the state agency’s fault if NEO violated the law. Then, of course, NEO is burdened by the bad ruling from a “liberal judge” who read the N.H. Constitution pretty much as anyone would, as prohibiting funding of religious schools.

Actually, though, NEO’s numerous problems highlight how poorly written the law is. Virtually any nonprofit that applies is automatically approved as a scholarship organization after a couple of basic checks. And once a group is authorized, the law provides no way for the state to prevent it from misappropriating money or breaking program rules.

So, NEO, a group with no capacity to run this kind of publicly funded program, is a qualified scholarship organization, fully authorized to act independently. NEO’s errors will probably cost the state less than $50,000 this year because, fortunately, its program is so small. But a larger program operated the same way could cost the state millions in unbudgeted general fund dollars.

NEO has made so many mistakes that it may well not get authorized to participate next year, but that after-the-fact punishment is the only remedy available under this ill-conceived tax credit law.

The N.H. Supreme Court may well end the program (a ruling on the appeals may come by spring) but, one way or another, vouchers are a failed experiment that needs to be ended.

Bill Duncan

Advancing New Hampshire

Public Education

New Castle

via Vouchers are a failed experiment and must end | SeacoastOnline.com.

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