Alton School Board's 'rejection' of Common Core has no consequence at this point; curriculum 'will not be undone'

ALTON — After a lengthy discussion at its August meeting, the Alton School Board voted three to two not to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative, but it appears that the vote will have no immediate consequences.

School Superintendent William Lander said this week that prior to his appointment, administrators and teachers invested significant time in realigning Alton's curriculum in anticipation of the introduction of the CCSS. "We are teaching the curriculum we've adopted that was approved by the School Board," he said, "and that will not be undone."

The CCSS, sponsored by the United States Department of Education and a consortium of states, have been adopted by 45 states, including by the New Hampshire State Board of Education in 2010. The program sets standards for measuring mastery of English language arts/literacy and mathematics at each grade level that by stressing problem solving and critical thinking are designed to ensure that high school graduates are prepared to enroll in college or enter the workforce.

Beginning in the spring of 2015, the state will replace the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), the test administered to elementary and secondary school students since 2005, with Smarter Balanced, an assessment developed by a consortium of states that is aligned with CCSS.

When the School Board discussed the CCSS in August, State Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) urged the board to reject it, claiming that because the federal government set the standards, which in turn would shape the curriculum, the program would erode local control of the schools. Likewise, Doris Hohensee of Families in Education, a group founded in 2010 to advocate for greater parental control of education, told the board that the CCSS was developed and adopted without the participation of parents or approval of the Legislature. Local and parental control would be lost, she warned, if the CCSS were adopted.

When the issue reached the board again last month, the majority — Terri Noyes, Krista Argiropolis and Carlos Martinez — expressed concern about the intrusion of the federal government and the threat to local control while Sandy Wyatt, who chairs the board, and Steve Miller favored a program they believed would raise standards. 

Heather Gage, director of instruction at the New Hampshire Department of Education, said yesterday that local school boards are not required to adopt the CCSS and there are no financial consequences of refusing to do so. However, school districts are required by state and federal law to administer the assessment prescribed by the state or seek waivers from the state and federal governments to administer a different test.

Gage explained that although federal funding is not contingent on a particular assessment, any alternative must be consistent with the assessment administered by the state. If it is not, she said that federal funding to support the education of low-income students, distributed under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act, would be at risk.

In withholding its endorsement of the CCSS, the Alton School Board has yet to raise the prospect of refusing to administer the Smarter Balanced assessment in 2015.