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AFT-NH Testimony In Opposition HB 1015 Non-germane amendment

AFT-NH Testimony on non-germane amendment to HB 1015 relative to requirements for literacy skill development in elementary grades

Thank you, Chair Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee for reading my testimony.

My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH, AFT-NH represents 3,700 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. My members work with approximately 30,000 of the 165,000 public school students across the Granite State as well as thousands of university students. I am writing today in opposition to HB 1015, relative to requirements for literacy skill development in elementary grades.

We agree with the intent of both the underlying bill and the nongermane amendment, but don’t agree passing either will help reach the goal. We want to see students who are struggling with some aspect of learning how to read and who show signs of falling behind their grade level peers get the help they need quickly. We want them to have efficient and effective intervention lessons that target their specific learning needs and allow them to become strong, confident readers. Despite our support of the goal behind this bill, we have several concerns about the bill and the nongermane amendment that cause us to urge you to find it Inexpedient to Legislate.

  • Are HB 1015 or the nongermane amendment necessary at this time? Just last session, this legislature passed RSA 200:59, updating the requirements for universal evidence-based reading screening of all students in grades K through 3 looking for indicators of signs of dyslexia and other related disorders, and requiring public schools to take action if a student performed below benchmark on the screening assessment. There are significant similarities between the universal screeners used under this law and the one described in the nongermane amendment. The changes in RSA 200:59 took effect Sept. 1, 2023, and we need to see how that effort is improving student outcomes in reading.
  • The tight and rigid timelines in both HB 1015 and the nongermane amendment do not allow adequate time to use the results from any evidence-based reading screening as they are intended to be used. If a student scores below the expected level on a phonics benchmark screening, for example, the next thing an experienced, professional educator would do is an inventory of what the student does know in phonics. Does the student know all the individual letters and the sounds they represent? Does the student know short vowels? Long vowels? Diphthongs? Inflected endings? The classroom teacher or interventionist needs time to figure out where the gaps in the student’s knowledge are that are causing that low score so the intervention can be tailored to the student’s need. Reteaching things the student already knows securely wastes valuable intervention time, so it is important to get an accurate, in-depth picture. Now expand this to a whole class of 20 first graders, where 6 of them scored below benchmark yesterday. And the nongermane amendment would allow 6 school days to come up with plans for intervention, not allowing the professional time to develop truly individualized plans that actually meet each student’s needs.
    • That doesn’t consider how a teacher then schedules the intervention lesson times for a variety of students working on different phonics skills.
    • This also doesn’t allow much time for consultation with in-school experts such as a Reading Specialist or Special Educator for interventions needed when the classroom teacher might need more evidence-based tools to use, or help analyzing the pattern of errors on a screening test of phonemic awareness or reading comprehension. Since most students in the school will have the universal reading skills screener administered within a few days of each other to minimize the disruption to classroom instruction, there is not enough time within the 6 school day deadline to analyze the results, complete any further inventories and consult with the specialist professionals to devise meaningful intervention plans to meet student needs.
  • The nongermane amendment continues to thrust the NH DOE into decisions that should be left to local school boards and school districts. Many local districts have already chosen evidence-based universal reading screeners that they have decided meet the needs of their students. The NH DOE should not be in the position of determining what local districts use for this screening assessment. Curriculum, programs and assessment – apart from the statewide assessment – are all local decisions. They should not be determined by the NH DOE, even if the carrot of grant money is offered.

We urge you to let the revised universal screening law have time to work. We urge you to let professionals take the time they need to review the results of that screening and use the tools in their toolboxes to teach evidence-based intervention lessons that actually meet students’ needs rather than rush to meet an inflexible timelines.

For all these reasons stated above we ask you to find both HB 1015 and the nongermane amendment Inexpedient to Legislate.


Debrah Howes

President, AFT-New Hampshire


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