Bill Aimed at Moving New Hampshire Away from Rigorous, Comparable Education Standards Would Put Students at Risk

Four state Republican legislators in New Hampshire introduced a bill meant to prohibit the state Department of Education and state Board of Education from requiring school districts and schools to adopt education standards developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. The legislation would also require the state General Court to approve future standards.

Passage of the bill would stop implementation of comparable academic expectations “by bureaucratic rulemaking,” an article by the Tenth Amendment Center contends. “It is still imperative for each state to adopt its own standards. The feds can once again use these national standards to meddle in state education at any time if they remain in place.”

The proposal, however, is largely superfluous. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law over a year ago to permanently replace No Child Left Behind, has prohibited federal authorities from meddling in states’ standards and accountability systems. The law explicitly prohibits the federal government from incentivizing states to use any specific set of learning goals.

Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House education committee, calls the law a “huge win for conservatives.” The federal government should not be in the business of telling states which standards they can or cannot use, he explains, and the new law achieves that by returning control back to state and local leaders.

States have taken full ownership of their education standards. Many have reviewed and made adjustments to their learning goals, but in near unanimity they have kept the academic bar high for students. In fact, only Oklahoma has reverted back to inferior classroom expectations.

States are beginning to see the fruits of their efforts to collectively raise expectations for students. Last year most states made significant student-proficiency improvements in math and reading. Some of the biggest gains came among third-grade students, who have spent most of their academic careers learning to meet higher standards.

The progress states are making sends “a clear message that it’s a mistake to retreat from high standards or go back to low-quality tests,” explains Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s Secretary of Education.

New Hampshire, like all states, is in the driver’s seat of its standards and accountability systems. The legislation is a thinly-veiled attempt to undermine the states’ devotion to challenging, comparable academic expectations. But to change course would not only create disruption and uncertainty for schools, it would put students at a loss.