By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Laconia School District is preparing to become one of a number of a "PACE" districts in the state by introducing "Performance Assessment of Competency Education," an accountability system designed to offer students greater opportunities to acquire critical knowledge and practical skills while measuring their performance by assessments developed and administered locally.
Academic Coordinators for Teaching and Learning Gail Bourn and Angel Burke told the School Board this week that the district applied to participate in the pilot program in January and recently learned it has been accepted by the New Hampshire Department of Education.
Bourn explained that the accountability will be designed and implemented by local educational officials, in collaboration with their counterparts from other district working together in a network and with support and guidance from the New Hampshire Department of Education. The system will be accompanied by competency-based approaches to instruction and learning aimed at preparing students to enroll in a higher educational institutional institution or begin the pursuit of a career.
Bourn stressed that PACE will provide several benefits for students, foremost among them less standardized testing and more instructional time. Students will still sit the Smarter Balance tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics in the fourth and eighth grades as well as the SAT in the 11th grade, but otherwise undergo the local performance assessment, one of which will be common assessment administered by all PACE districts, in the remaining grades.
At the same time, Bourn said that PACE applies the recent understanding of of people learn through "project-based learning," which enables students to acquire knowledge and develop skills they can apply circumstances and problems encountered in the world beyond the classroom.
Mal Murray of the School Board was skeptical. "How much more paperwork will this mean for out teachers who are already overworked and underpaid?' he asked. Bourn replied that that before seeking to participate in the program, the teachers were consulted and responded positively. Unconvinced, Murray said "we keep piling more things on our teachers. I'm going to stop, because I'm not happy at all."
School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said that the initiative would have no significant impact on the district budget. "It ties costly into a lot of what we are already doing," he said. The program is expected to begin with the 2017-2018 school year.
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