What should we consider when reviewing our state standards?

The State Board of Education is considering whether to review the state’s academic standards for math and English Language Arts. They’re seeking public comment on the standards and the Department of Education’s review process at their next meeting on June 8.

In this post, we explore the basic purpose behind New Hampshire’s state academic standards and concerns with a policy review. Most notably:

  • State academic standards are important. State standards provide a set of common benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do in a certain grade. They also serve as the basis for accountability measures – challenging state academic standards enable parents, educators, and the Department and State Board to review what students are learning and where districts may have challenges.
  • The Department of Education proposal could create a new set of standards by June 2018. According to the proposal, a Strategic Leadership Team and Standards Review Team would start reviewing academic standards in August 2017 and must either propose a new set of minimum standards or revise the current standards by June 2018.
  • There are a number of concerns with the proposal to review state standards. The Department’s proposal lacks critical details, does not include any budget, and seems to indicate that New Hampshire could completely rewrite the math and ELA standards. Standards reviews should be narrowly tailored to address specific concerns about specific standards; reviews are costly (some states have spent over $150,000 for a review) and should be well-resourced; and finally, standards reviews should be driven by local demand and not pushed from the top-down.
  • Any review should be aligned with local efforts. The review process should minimize the disruption to local school districts – educators have spent years building curriculum and materials around the state’s standards, and administrators fear that the uncertainty could drive good teachers away. In addition, New Hampshire is a leader in innovation—from personalization to competency education, and all initiatives, curriculum, and materials are built on the current academic standards. Teachers, administrators, parents, and students have put in a lot of work to make our education system #1 in the U.S., and any standards reviews should be respectful of the work that they’re doing.

What’s next?

The State Board of Education is seeking more public input on the state standards at their June 8 meeting. From there, they could decide to move forward with the review, reject it entirely, propose that the DOE focus on reviewing different standards (the Social Studies standards, for example), or continue to debate the proposal.

Want to learn more? View the in-depth post here.