AFT-NH testimony on HB 1434
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
To the NH Senate Education Committee:
Dear Chairwoman Ward and Members of the Committee:
My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH.AFT-NH represents 3,500 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education staff across New Hampshire.
I am here to express the concerns my members have with HB 1434 – relative to the availability of school curriculum materials. We feel that if passed, this bill will take time and focus away from student learning, create additional paperwork and recordkeeping for teachers and not improve parental knowledge of what is being taught in the classroom. We urge you to find this bill Inexpedient to Legislate.
Firstly, I want to make clear that teachers and school staff want and welcome parental engagement in education – in fact, we’re desperate for it. We want to have good two-way communication with the parents, guardians, or adults in our students’ lives. We know how valuable this is so we can share successes and concerns, answer questions and work as a powerful team to help our students succeed! Secondly, information about what is being studied in the classroom is readily available through classroom newsletters or websites, online academic portals, and district websites. Parents who want to learn more can attend Open Houses, Parent Nights, and Celebrations of Learning. If parents have questions about a particular assignment or text, they can always email the teacher and ask. These things are already happening without need for this proposed law.
Our main concern is that HB1434 does nothing to help achieve the constructive, collaborative, student-focused relationship between parents and teachers that is key to helping students succeed. Instead, it is a one-way demand for materials to be produced for review within a specified time limit of 10 business days.
Here are some of our other concerns with this bill:
- The term “curriculum course material used to support student learning” is not defined, but based on testimony during the House Committee hearing on this bill, it could mean any, and perhaps all of the following:
- the state or locally adopted standards, goals, and objectives of a course or grade level
- the scope and sequence and pacing guide of the course/ subject – basically an outline of topics covered and when
- the published curriculum from a publishing company,
- any additional texts, exemplars, websites, worksheets, and videoclips used to further illustrate a lesson
Having such a vague term in the bill sets the stage for conflict over whether a teacher, school or district has fully met the request.
- There is no time limit on how long after material was used to support student learning the teacher would have to produce it.
- Would a Kindergarten teacher who had students color letter M pictures in Sept. be expected to have a blank one to show a parent in June?
- Does a 4th grade teacher need to take a picture of every practice multiplication equation she writes on the board in case a parent request it at some unspecified time in the future?
- Does a High School science teacher need to save bookmarks to every real-life article and video she shares with students to show the science unit is relevant to real life? And how do you share those links with a parent who requests them? What if the links no longer work? How much time does it take away from your current work with students to keep updating the supplemental materials from previous units?
- Much of what is in this bill is already covered by school district policies. School boards adopt standards. School districts have policies and committees that decide which textbooks to use. Parents can get involved, review what is presented and give input in those venues.
- Most school districts also have policies on how to choose supplemental materials as well as what are acceptable websites for educational use. Teachers must follow these policies for the supplemental materials they use.
- With no requirement that the person requesting the information even have a student in the class, teachers could be asked to produce mountains of “curriculum course materials used to support student learning” covering the entire previous school year (or longer!) for someone who has no connection to the school or the students learning in the classroom. How is that a good use of the teacher’s limited time to prepare to meet the learning needs of the students in front of him or her? Why should those students get less than the teacher’s full attention because some outside person wanted curriculum course material provided and requested it under this proposed law?
Rather than improving classroom communication and parental involvement, HB1434 would actually be an impediment. It would bury teachers under a paperwork mountain without significantly adding to parents' understanding of what their student is being taught in the classroom. Most importantly, it would take valuable time and focus away from current student learning.
I urge you to vote Inexpedient to Legislate on HB1434.