Common Core

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The two biggest school districts in the state have not met the federal benchmarks set for participation in a controversial state-wide standardized test, known as the Smarter Balanced.

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Putting Our Cursive Skills To The Test

Apr 23, 2015

The Word of Mouth team wondered just how well our primary school cursive instruction stuck many years later, so we decided to put it to the test. The same issues that plagued us as children, continue to come up as adults. Why does the capital cursive 'Q' look like the number '2'? Why does the lowercase 'z' look nothing like the letter 'z'?

Last month the New Hampshire Senate nearly made cursive a mandatory part of public school curriculum. But does the argument for keeping longhand in the classroom have more to do with nostalgia than it does educational outcomes? On today’s show  we go inside the emotional, and surprisingly partisan debate over cursive.

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Today’s classrooms may come outfitted with iPads and gadgets, but the textbook industry has weathered the digital storm surprisingly well. On today’s show we’ll look at an unexpected threat to the textbook industry:  the rollout of the Common Core standards.

Then, between jam packed schedules and lengthy to-do lists, it’s little wonder that so many people claim they hate surprises. But what can we gain from embracing the unexpected?  A self-described 'surprisologist' makes the case for being caught off guard.

Listen to the full show or click read more for individual segments.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR


The Republican-led House passed several bills Wednesday aimed at weakening aspects of the Common Core education standards and affirming the importance of local and parental control in education.

“We can fire a shot here today in the battle over federal intrusion,” Republican Rep. Glenn Cordelli of Tuftonboro told the chamber to loud cheers. “You will make a statement today, you will stand tall. No more unfunded federal mandates, no more federal control of education, no more.”

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire's Republican-led House is considering bills to gut parts of the Common Core education standards.

The House will debate several measures Wednesday aimed at the standards and tests associated with them. Most have a positive endorsement from the House Education Committee, signaling a strong chance of passage.

One bill says schools don't have to adopt the standards. Opponents of the bill say it's redundant because the state board of education does not force schools to use the standards. Passing the bill will make clear the House's skepticism of the standards.

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New Hampshire students will take a new standardized test this spring, called the Smarter Balanced. Early indications are the test will be substantially more difficult, and school teachers and administrators are anxious, and some – like Manchester – have been looking for an out, only to find there is not much wiggle room.

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  The Manchester School Board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee has approved a measure letting parents pull their child from taking tests linked to the Common Core standards.

The proposal includes a mail campaign to inform parents of this option. The letters would state that there would be no penalties if they choose to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test. And parents would need to notify the child’s principal of the decision in writing.

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  The Manchester School Board voted Wednesday night to administer the Smarter Balanced exams which would test students’ progress in meeting Common Core standards.

The vote puts an end to months of wrangling with the state Department of Education. Board members had originally voted to opt out of the test last summer but the DoE said doing so could mean the loss of millions in federal education aid.

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Last month’s announcement that the U.S. and Cuba will restore diplomatic relations sparked waves of speculation about what the thaw means for diplomacy, trade, and tourism. On today’s show: what normalized relations mean for Cuba’s internet infrastructure.  

And we usher in awards season by going off the red carpet. We’ll celebrate some of the best films of 2014 that were not nominated for a Golden Globe.

Plus, we kick off a new series on offbeat college courses, The Uncommon Core. Today: Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

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The New Hampshire Department of Education has rejected the Manchester School District’s request to opt-out of a new standardized test to be given this spring. In a letter to the school district, Education Commissioner Virginia Barry writes that if Manchester doesn’t administer the Smarter Balanced exam, it could lose nearly $17 million in federal education funds.

What's Next For Common Core In N.H.?

Aug 6, 2014
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We look at the Common Core and how these new education standards are being met with enthusiasm, confusion, and protest. While some states have rejected the Common Core, others are moving forward. We will get an update on this issue, including in New Hampshire, where several districts may take their own approach.


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There’s a database in New Hampshire, nestled in hard-drives in the Department of Education, with all sorts of information about student test scores, graduation rates, and achievement. It shows how poor kids do on tests compared to rich kids, and how minorities do compared to whites, and whether schools are improving on those tests.

Whenever the data in it is accessed, it’s totally anonymous; only a handful of employees at the DOE can match these test-scores with student names.

Getting In: What It Means To Be "College Ready"

May 7, 2014

We’re continuing our series “A Matter of Degrees” with a look at what it means to be college ready.   A common complaint is that freshmen arrive without the fundamentals of writing and math.  Meanwhile, the nation’s top tier schools are tougher than ever to get into – and students are playing an admissions game, figuring out the right mix of grades, extra-curriculars and experiences. 


The N.H. House killed two proposals to delay or limit the effect of the Common Core education standards and voted to study a third.

The debate stretched nearly three hours, and votes split mostly along party lines. Concord Democrat Mary Stuart Gile, a backer of Common Core, which was adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010,  noted that education reform regimes come and go, but insisted that common core will benefit NH students.

"Make no mistake my colleagues the Common Core state standards raise the bar for teaching and learning."

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Schools all around the state are currently working to “tweak” a set-of academic standards that have been adopted by nearly the entire country: the Common Core. The highest profile example of that tweaking is going on in Manchester, where critics of the standards claimed a political victory last fall when the city announced it would create its own standards. Reactions to the revisions in Manchester show that no set of standards is going to please everyone.

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The House Education committee continued a hearing Thursday on legislation that would require New Hampshire to pull the plug on implementing the Common Core standards.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Most of today’s students and their parents are used to report cards based on the letters A through F. But a new grading system is taking root in schools across the country that seeks to give parents a lot more information. Standards based grading breaks classes down to specific skills students have mastered.

A is good, F is bad. But what about E, M, IP, and LP?

Those are the grades that kids in Sanborn High School in Kingston get. They stand for exceeding, meeting, in-progress, and limited progress.

New Hampshire adopted these new public school standards several years ago... one of forty five states to do so. Now, while many districts are on the path, more pushback has developed in some communities, especially from groups suspicious of outside involvement in local public education.  Today we'll look at the current debates around Common Core.


Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The state adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010 with little controversy at the time. But you wouldn’t know that by the tone of a legislative forum Tuesday morning.  The controversy over the Common Core State Standards has made its way to the New Hampshire legislature. This session lawmakers will be asked to consider pulling the plug on the state’s new educational goalposts.

The hall was packed with conservative activists who called the forum one-sided.

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Diane Ravitch, one of the nation's loudest voices against efforts by recent presidents to reform American education, says teachers should be able to make changes to the new Common Core State Standards that New Hampshire schools are implementing now.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

  The Manchester School Board has voted to modify a new set of state-wide education standards to make them more rigorous.

The vote was in response to pressure from critics of the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 states.

The Manchester School District will create something called the “Manchester Academic Standards.” However, the Common Core standards will still form the foundation for the district’s new goalposts.

Manchester Common Core Vote Postponed

Sep 17, 2013

A key Manchester Board of School committee vote on how to implement federal Common Core standards has been delayed.  The state adopted the Common Core in 2010, which outlines what students should know before passing each grade.  

New Hampshire is among some forty states to adopt this more rigorous set of standards for math and language arts in public schools. But just as this bi-partisan effort becomes reality, the system is facing some backlash from both the right and left. We’ll find out more about Common Core and the challenges it faces getting off the ground.


Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The most popular stories of the past week, from our newsroom, Word of Mouth, and The Exchange.

1. The Common Core State Standards: Not Yet In Place, Already Controversial

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NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown has spent this week digging into the Common Core Standards, which will roll out in New Hampshire schools next year.  He joins us now to pull the camera back a bit, and talk about what the Common Core means in the big picture. 

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All week, NHPR Education reporter Sam Evans Brown has been looking at a massive transition underway the Granite State, a new set of school standards known as the Common Core.  Educators nationwide have been shifting toward this new system. We’ll find out kind of discussions are taking place at our local schools among teachers, principals and students. 


Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

With the new Common Core State Standards comes a new standardized test, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment. New Hampshire schools will take it for the first time in the spring of 2015, and in many ways, it’s the new test that will determine how the Common Core is taught.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Next year is the deadline for New Hampshire schools to transition to the Common Core State Standards. This means a change in topics for different grades, and a change in how teachers teach. For some schools this will be a big change, but others are well on their way to adapting to the new academic standards.