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Press Release

For Immediate Release
June 11, 2015

Communications Office

Governor Hassan’s Veto Message Regarding HB 603

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan released the following message after vetoing HB 603 today:

“By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on June 12, 2015, I have vetoed House Bill 603, relative to student exemption from the statewide assessment.

“House Bill 603 would create a student opt-out option from the statewide assessment process. This bill would conflict with current state educational accountability laws, undercut one of the tools that educators use to evaluate K-12 student progress, and jeopardize federal funding for New Hampshire schools.

“If it became law, House Bill 603 could do real and lasting damage to New Hampshire’s economic competitiveness, suggesting that our state is not committed to ensuring that students are ready for college and/or careers in the 21st century’s innovation economy. That is why the business leaders and educators joined together to oppose this legislation.

“By state law – and as a result of Supreme Court decisions requiring a statewide education accountability system – New Hampshire schools are required to participate in the Statewide Educational Improvement and Assessment Program.  If passed, House Bill 603 would discourage participation in the annual statewide assessment, violating the requirements of both federal and state law, as well as the requirements of the New Hampshire Supreme Court that New Hampshire have a broad assessment and accountability system.

“A valid annual assessment is a critical component of accountability, which is why state statutes say that all students must take the statewide assessment. This year, New Hampshire started a new annual assessment, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, an improved test that helps inform educators about whether students are meeting higher standards and helps direct any resulting changes to instruction.  These tests provide the only statewide snapshot as to how our public schools are performing, serving as an additional measure to inform us about how well students are being educated. But it also important to note that the State is not over-relying on these tests as they are are not a significant factor in teacher evaluation, they are not used to determine school funding and they are not required for a student to graduate.

“New Hampshire also recognizes that standardized assessments alone do not provide the most well-rounded, individual student-driven results that effectively inform teacher instruction. That is why New Hampshire continues to build on our efforts that are leading the nation in developing assessment alternatives through the Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) Pilot Program. PACE empowers our students and our teachers by reducing the amount of standardized testing in favor of more locally managed assessments that will be integrated into a student’s day-to-day work, which improves the effectiveness of project-based 21st century learning.

“Allowing this bill to become law also poses significant fiscal risk by threatening threatens tens of millions of dollars a year in federal funding to our schools. The federal government requires 95 percent of students to participate in a statewide assessment to receive Title I funding. Action in some New Hampshire school districts that provided an unofficial opt-out option this year led to decreased student participation – demonstrating that any state action to encourage opt-out would have the same, if not greater implications. House Bill 603 does not provide reporting of opt-outs to the Department of Education, so we would be unable to accurately determine how many students did not take the test and whether the State met the 95-percent student participation threshold.

“House Bill 603 sets a bad precedent for, and sends a bad message to, our students. Students who are told that they can opt out of this critical component to their education will believe that they can opt out of other of requirements as well, which could in turn affect participation in day-to-day activities and interfere with both student assessment and direct instruction.

“New Hampshire’s economic competitiveness depends on our ongoing commitment to ensuring that our students and workers have the skills needed to compete in the future. If passed, this bill would inhibit the ability to effectively measure student progress and inform teacher instruction, while sending a message to the business and education communities that New Hampshire does not value high standards in education, standards that will help prepare our future workforce for success in the innovation economy. Therefore, I have vetoed House Bill 603.”