The Londonderry School District anticipates the federal government will soon issue a waiver to No Child Left Behind that will allow the District to conduct SAT testing in 11th grade in lieu of the Smarter Balanced assessment.
The legislature recently passed a bill that supports the change, HB 323, which allows a school district in New Hampshire to use the College Board SAT or the ACT college readiness assessment to fulfill the high school assessment requirement.
“We’re very happy the bill passed the House and Senate. Thanks to support over the last several years from the Commissioner, it looks at this point in time it’s very likely we’ll be using the SAT at grade 11 in lieu of the Smarter Balanced assessment,” said Superintendent Nate Greenberg, who has been working for two years with administration to establish in-school SAT testing for 11th grade students.
Utilizing the SAT’s in lieu of Smarter Balanced in grade 11 and the PACE model would curtail some of the standardized assessments in several grade levels as part of the proposed waiver to No Child Left Behind.
When first established in Londonderry in 2013, Greenberg said the initiative earned complete support and approval from the School Board, school administration and faculty, as well as strong support from the community and superintendents throughout the State.
When the high school administered the SAT during the school day for the first time this year, 98 percent of the junior class participated.
“That participation rate is an indication of the community support we have for this initiative and the value our students have placed on this opportunity to take a meaningful exam that will assist them in achieving their post high school goals,” Greenberg said, noting last year’s graduating class had a 90 percent acceptance rate to two- and four-year colleges.
The District’s goal for 2020 is a 95 percent acceptance rate to two- and four-year colleges.
School Board Chairman Steve Young said at a recent meeting that if used properly, the assessments are a tool for identifying how students are being challenged and determining whether the skills students are learning enable them to work by themselves.
“We’re trying to provide them with the skills and opportunities to put them in a position where college or two-year schools are a choice,” he said. “The skills you need to get into college are the skills kids need to have to have a secure economic future in the workforce. Our kids will be in really good shape.”
As part of their focus on college and career readiness at all grade levels, the District has also developed a Futures (computer) Lab to assist students in college and career planning, “Professional Breakfasts,” at which students met with professionals representing a variety of careers, and a District wide Career Day for kindergarten through grade 12.
“This is a whole K through 12 effort,” Greenberg said at the June 16 School Board meeting. “At both the middle and high school, kids are actively engaged in participating in the College Board Assessment Suite. We had 98 percent of juniors take the SAT, many of whom would not have had the opportunity to take the SAT before. I think the track we’re on will continue to provide opportunity and services for our students.”
In a letter urging the Legislature to support HB 323, Greenberg wrote that the legislation will allow the District to continue with the college and career readiness program without burdening students with the Smarter Balanced assessment in grade 11; thus, increasing concentration and focus on the SAT, increasing available instruction time, validating local initiative and control, and demonstrating support for an initiative that has high value for students.
The federal government agreed to issue the District a waiver to No Child Left Behind if the Legislature passed HB 323.
With the bill having passed the Legislature, Greenberg said the District will be able to continue administering the SAT to 11th grade students next year.
“We expect to hear very shortly from the federal government on our waiver request, and I have confidence that will be granted,” he said.
To receive flexibility from No Child Left Behind, states must adopt and have a strong plan to implement college- and career-ready standards, according to the White House. States receiving waivers must set new performance targets to improve student achievement and close achievement gaps.
There are 41 states, including New Hampshire, that the federal government has awarded flexibility to from No Child Left Behind.
Much work continues in Washington to reform No Child Left Behind.
On July 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act, a piece of legislation to replace No Child Left Behind.
The bill’s sponsor, Minnesota Congressman John Kline, who also serves as chairman of the House Education Committee, said in a press release the legislation will usher in conservative reforms that would reduce the federal role, restore local control and empower parents and education leaders to hold local schools accountable.
The bill provides parents the ability to opt children out of annual testing and exempts schools from including students who have opted out in the school’s testing participation requirements; replaces the current national accountability scheme based on high stakes tests with state-led accountability systems; and provides states the ability to use federal funds to examine the number and quality of assessments given to students and allows districts to administer their own assessments with state approval, according to Kline.
Separately, the U.S. Senate is vetting a bipartisan reform bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, which would revise and reauthorize No Child Left Behind.
The act would return to states and local communities control over curriculum and could potentially put an end to over-assessment of students. It would also ban the federal government from incentivizing states to adopt Common Core.