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Waiver from "No Child Left Behind" will mean more individualized education for students

September 05, 2012
AREA - The state of New Hampshire filed an application this week for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind requirements, joining 37 other states who have already done so. Berlin Superintendent Corrinne Cascadden was one of four superintendents statewide that met in Concord this summer to work on the application.

In a letter to educators dated August 28, Virginia Barry, N.H. Commissioner of Education, said in part that the state board of education has "approached the waiver process from the perspective that anything we do must be consistent with our unique local control character."

If approved, there are basically four component/requirements, the state would then have to meet.

The first is that all students need to be college and career ready.

"We will need to develope a rubric to see if we can predict our students success in college," Cascadden told members of the Berlin education staff at a breakfast last week.

But that does not mean that all students must be ready for college exclusively, but that they must be ready to succeed beyond high school, college being one option, according to a Concept Paper sent out by Barry.

The second component is "differentiated recognition, accountability and support." Basically this means schools will no long be required to have 100 percent of the students test "proficient." This was required under No Child Left Behind, a goal that did not recognize that not all students were capable of this, particularly students with special needs. Under No Child Left Behind, all students, 100 percent, no exceptions, had to test proficient by 2014, or face severe penalties. It did not recognize differing abilities or disabilities and schools were failing to meet that goal one by one.

The goal under the new program would be 80 percent. If a school tests at 60 percent, the school will have to put in place a plan to bring that to 80 percent within six years, Cascadden told staff Monday. The focus is going to be more on the individual student and his/her progress over time. This allows for students with developmental growth differences.

A new test, called Smarter Balance Assessment, will be used and will be taken by students on-line. This is a national test, based on a common core curriculum that will be taken by students in grades 3-8 and grade 11.

The third component is "networks of support and recognition." The schools in the lowest five percent will be identified as "priority schools" and those in the lowest 10 percent as "focus schools." These schools would be given more assistance and support from the state Department of Education. The details of that are still to be worked out.

The fourth component is "supporting teacher and leader effectiveness." This will require all schools in New Hampshire to adopt a model for teacher evaluation.

In the past Berlin hasn't had a consistant, across all schools, method of evaluating teachers. That will change this year, Cascadden told the staff Monday. All administrators will use the same form when evaluating teachers. All staff, not just teachers, will be evaluated, There will be at least four walk-throughs for each class. Announced walk-throughs will have a pre-and post-conference. Unannounced walk-throughs will have a post conference.

Statewide, according to the Concept Paper, evaluation will be phased in, starting with volunteer schools the first couple of years. By the 2014-15 school year, all school districts will have to introduce the state model or a model closely aligned with it.

How education will change

The new requirements are focused more on individual student's competencies, rather than on standards. Basically the focus is not going to be so much on the ability to solve a particular problem, but more on how they know how to solve it.

Education is going to become much more individualized and students will become much more involved with their own education, Cascadden said, in an interview with the Reporter earlier this summer.

"Students will need to take more ownership for their learning," she said. "To move on they will have to do performance tests to prove what they know and how they know it. They will have to explain how they developed answers, what materials they used, their thinking skills, how they linked topic together and how it's applicable to a real world setting."

Because education is going to become more individualized and totally competency-based in the long run, it will allow students who are ready to take college courses sooner.

Students will also need to use more technology, not just books, and transfer skills across content areas.

"Students have to be ready for 21st century learning, have to be ready to use technology to drive their learning," Cascadden said.

There will be more collaboration between teachers of different subjects.

Cascadden said teachers have already had some professional development towards these goals. Teachers are working on curriculum and administrators have started to meet to start the teacher evaluation process that will be required.

Gorham Superintendent Paul Bosquet agreed.

"Instruction will be much more personalized," he said. "This will allow us to get more support for the good things we do and help with the things we don't do as well. The more teachers and school leaders are effective, the better it will be in the classroom."

Bosquet said he had talked to his staff last Tuesday about the waiver process. That district is going to start working on a strategic plan.

Excited about what it means for education, Bosquet said "we want to get on that wave and ride it." In the Concept Paper, Barry noted the state wants to get away from "branding schools through a negative and unproductive process" and instead work towards "promoting improvement and innovation."

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