What Does the No Child Left Behind Waiver Mean for New Hampshire Public Schools?

New Hampshire was granted a waiver from the Federal “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) Act this week.

According to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s press release she said: “New Hampshire is now free to pursue more effective and innovative ways to address the needs of all our students and prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century economy,” …. “By receiving this waiver, New Hampshire will continue to protect its most underserved students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction while also pursuing needed comprehensive reforms and protecting local control.”
Which begs the question: What has the New Hampshire Department of Education been doing for the past decade?

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has certainly shown America what a top-down approach in education can do to schools and their students. If you look at this graph provided by the CATO Institute, you will see the enormous increase in spending on public education, however the achievement level remained virtually unchanged.

What did we get for all of that spending on public education? Not much.

While schools were jumping through the hoops to meet federal requirements and spending precious tax dollars in the process, it’s clear that NCLB never lived up to the high expectations from the legislators who pushed this on the states.

What does a waiver from NCLB mean?

It means we traded one federal “top-down” program that didn’t work well, for another called Common Core. Common Core is another national top-down education program that’s unproven and will cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money.

In the same press release, the NH Commissioner of Education, Virginia Barry said, “This waiver provides our state the opportunity to focus resources on those initiatives that will move our state forward in the best interest of children.”

Were they failing in this effort before? Are they saying that following a federal program led them down a path was not in the best interest of children?

If so, what makes this new federal-top-down program any better? Especially since some of the harshest critics of Common Core come from the Common Core Validation Committee.

Both of the content experts chosen by Common Core refused to sign off on the Common Core Math and English standards due to their poor quality and many flaws.

Are we supposed to believe that another national program that makes schools accountable to bureaucrats instead of parents will finally bring us the quality education children deserve? Knowing the chosen experts by Common Core do not believe these academic standards are worthy of our public schools?

In Gov. Hassan’s press release she admits, “Under No Child Left Behind, approximately 75 percent of the state’s schools would have been labeled “failing” next year. Now, the state can focus on the students that most critically need help: those in schools with the widest achievement gaps and the lowest-performing schools in the state.”

Again, what has the New Hampshire Department of Education been doing for the past decade? Were they too focused on a federal program that contributed to this problem?

Common Core Standards were developed to address the low quality standards that were developed in some states. This was certainly a problem, however developing a set of national standards in Math and English that do not rise up to the level of excellence does not fix this problem.

Instead of working to improve the quality of the New Hampshire State Standards, the Department of Education is focusing on yet another federal education reform program.

There are other states that rejected the Common Core Standards, worked to improve their existing State Standards and still received the waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. This now puts New Hampshire students at a disadvantage and continues to erode state and local control of education in the process.

What other problems come from jumping through the Common Core hoops?

The much criticized practice of “teaching to the test” will continue under Common Core because teacher evaluations are now tied to the standardized test.

SB48 is a Senate Bill that recently passed in the NH House and Senate. Passage of SB48 was a requirement from the U.S. Dept. of Education in order to receive the NCLB waiver. This legislation puts the NH Dept. of Education in charge of remediating schools whose students are not performing well on “the standardized test”. By focusing on the new federal requirements of Common Core, New Hampshire just cemented many more years of schools focusing on “teaching to the test”.

This is a big problem since the Common Core math test has been criticized for its many flaws and focusing on non-academic skills, by math experts. Teachers will be evaluated and schools remediated by the NH Dept. of Ed (DOE) based on a flawed test.

Taxpayers are going to pay a heavy price for this newest and latest national program to fix public education. Another education reform program brought to us by unelected bureaucrats who didn’t manage to fix these problems the first time around and the same ones who think schools need to be accountable to bureaucrats instead of parents.