New Hampshire Education Roundup, Nov. 16

In this issue of Reaching Higher NH’s Education News Brief: Linda Darling-Hammond named to Biden’s transition team; State Board of Education hears concerns about special education and approves new course placement rules; election results may change course of education policy; School Funding Commission nears its deadline; and educators visit “The Exchange.”

NH PACE Program Leader to Head Biden’s Education Transition Team — Linda Darling-Hammond, founder of the Learning Policy Institute and president of the California State Board of Education, has been chosen to lead President-elect Joe Biden’s education transition team. Darling-Hammond was a key partner in New Hampshire’s PACE program, which replaces standardized tests with locally developed, authentic assessments. Her research and collaboration with the NH Department of Education were foundational to the success of the program, which became a national model of student assessment. Darling-Hammond is a leader in education policy and school redesign, teacher preparation, learning assessments, authentic learning, and school finance. Read some of her latest work: Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond.

Families, Advocates Share Special Ed Concerns With State Board of Education — Students with special needs continue to face challenges in accessing appropriate instructional support, parents and advocates testified to the New Hampshire State Board of Education on Thursday, Nov. 12. As districts raced to implement remote learning last spring, “many students were an afterthought,” said Lisa Beaudoin, Executive Director of Able NH. Additionally, she said, special education supports have remained inconsistent from district to district, due in part to the open-ended nature of state guidance on students with disabilities. “We need to always have clear and strong language to ensure that all students with disabilities have their needs met,” she said. 

Board Chairmen Drew Cline said the Board has received a great deal of input on remote learning, particularly from parents of students with special needs. “We as a board hear you,” he said. “It’s a real issue and everybody’s aware of it…it’s not being taken lightly or dismissed.”

Remote instruction is on the Board’s agenda for its Dec. 10 meeting. 

Board of Education Approves New High School Course Placement Rules — High school students will be able to use assessments approved by the State Board of Education to test out of and receive credit for coursework, under an amendment approved by the State Board of Education on Thursday, Nov. 12. The proposed amendment is designed to give students an alternate option for demonstrating competency in a course if their schools don’t offer such an assessment. It reflects modifications recommended by the NH Alliance for College and Career Readiness, replacing the term “placement pre-test” with “assessment.” The term “assessment” gives schools flexibility in creating their assessments, said Nicole Heimarck, Director of the Alliance. The proposal was approved in a 3-1 vote and will now be submitted to the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. 

Change in NH Leadership Likely to Affect Education Policy — The shift of party control in the House, Senate, and Executive Council at the polls on Nov. 3 could have significant bearing on key education issues in the coming term.  The Commission to Study School Funding, which was created last year by the Democrat-controlled legislature, will now be crafting its recommendations for a Republican-controlled governing body. The Executive Council, now also Republican-controlled, will be responsible for approving Gov. Sununu’s appointments to four seats on the State Board of Education in 2021, as well as the Commissioner of Education. 

School Funding Commission Prepares For Uncertain Future — As it nears the Dec. 1 deadline for completing its recommendations, the Commission to Study School Funding also faces the possibility that its own composition will change in the coming months under new state leadership. The Commission will remain intact until the new legislature acts on the recommendations, but individual Commission members are uncertain whether they’ll continue in their roles after Dec. 1. “We basically serve at the pleasure of the House leadership, the Senate leadership, and the Governor’s Office,” said Commission Chair David Luneau. 

In its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12, the Commission discussed extending the state’s contract with the Carsey School of Public Policy through June 2021, in part to ensure continuity in the new legislative term. Hired in early 2020, the Carsey School has been assisting the Commission with education, public outreach, and dissemination of information, including maintaining the Commission’s website. The Commission will discuss the contract in more detail next week. 

Commission Work Groups also presented draft reports of their work on Thursday and discussed the timeline for completing their recommendations. After a “messy” day of Work Group meetings on Monday, Luneau told the Commission he was optimistic about the core principles that are emerging from their work. “I’m really excited about where we are right now,” he said. 

“The Exchange” Tackles Education Issues — NHPR’s “The Exchange” devoted two days to a special “COVID & the Classroom” series last week. On Tuesday, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut visited the program to discuss the Department of Education’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and take questions from listeners. On Thursday, a panel of educators from around the state spoke with host Laura Knoy about their experiences. The series demonstrated the wide range of frustrations and fears families, educators, and school officials are facing amid the pandemic. 

“Some people are expressing they’re incredibly overwhelmed,” said Maxine Mosley, Vice President of the Manchester Education Association and a guidance counselor at Henry J. McLaughlin Middle School. “It’s a tremendous amount of work.” Mosley said she’s also worried for students. “There are too many children not accessing their education,” she said.

WHAT WE’RE READING

How an Oregon Measure For Universal Preschool Could Be a National Model
New York Times, Claire Cain Miller, Nov. 7, 2020

A Worrying Trend This Fall: Decline in FAFSA Applications
The Hechinger Report, Delece Smith-Barrow, Nov. 6, 2020

Did COVID-19 Really Drive Teachers to Quit?
Education Week, Madeline Will, Catherine Gewertz and Sarah Schwartz, Nov. 10, 2020