NH DOE forms a public school reopening and redesign task force

On Monday, May 11, Commissioner Frank Edelblut announced a new task force that will propose recommendations to the Governor, NH Department of Education, and local school districts on when, and how, to reopen the state’s public schools. The School Transition Reopening and Redesign Taskforce (STRRT) will also recommend ways for schools to “redesign” New Hampshire’s educational system.

The task force will issue preliminary recommendations by June 30. Districts will have 30 days to respond, before the task force issues their final recommendations, though they expect to meet after that to provide input on issues that may arise. 

The task force will be split into 6 workgroups: instruction, student wellness, operations, technology, student voice, and associations. There are roughly 50 people across the work groups, but each workgroup will have two designated representatives who will sit on the STRRT. The student workgroup will have one student representative who will sit on the task force.

The first public meeting of the STRRT will be on Thursday, May 14, from 2-3 pm. Register for the webinar here.

According to the report, members will be focused on student and staff safety, as well as rebuilding a system that accommodates students who have found success under the remote learning model. 

The report includes a possible instructional model that anticipates full access, limited access, and fully remote access. In all model scenarios, from elementary to secondary school, in-person instruction is either supplemented or replaced by remote or video instruction, as well as a common technology platform.

A Common Technology Platform

According to the report, the Department envisions a technology “backbone” for all New Hampshire public schools, where the system could host course lessons and manage classroom workflow. 

The Department’s report stated that the technology platform “may lend itself to consistency and quality across our education system,” and provided three examples: 

  1. A student who shifts to remote learning for a short period of time during the semester; 
  2. A teacher who shifts their class to remote learning for a short period of time during the semester; and, 
  3. A scenario in which students can take courses that are offered at other schools, during their own school day. Currently, the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School [VLACS] offers courses to all New Hampshire students in grades 5 through 12, whether they are enrolled full time or take a single course. 

The report included a vision for a common technology platform, similar to the one used on college campuses. 

On a typical college campus, every student has a login to their college’s platform, which instructors use in different ways, depending on the course. Often, students can access their course syllabi and other documents, participate in class discussions similar to an online message board, and submit assignments. 

Sometimes, that portal may also handle sensitive financial information, like family income verification, tax data and records, and more, so that the institution can track eligibility for, and distribute, financial aid. It may also include sensitive information like Grade Point Average, ethnicity, religion, and other categories. 

There are considerations when using online platforms, particularly in a K-12 educational environment, like concerns surrounding data privacy. Nationally, there has been concern over the type and amount of data collected and sold to third party companies:

“We are concerned that schools, parents, and students are at risk of having significant amounts of data stolen, collected, monetized, or sold without their permission or knowledge,” a group of three Congressmen said in a letter to educational technology companies like Blackboard. More information about education technology companies’ data collection practices, and federal laws around data privacy, can be found here: U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center, and Common Sense Privacy Project.

Some questions the task force may consider include: whether to adopt policies around a common educational technology platform; whether the platform would be managed at the school, district, SAU, or state level; the level of access for students outside of a remote learning environment; the cost of the platform and maintaining the digital infrastructure; and data privacy norms, laws, and rules. The report states that the idea should “spark thinking among STRRT members” about how to “reopen and reimagine” schools and learning environments.  

Registration information

Meetings of the STRRT are open to the public. Registration is required.

Taskforce Meeting #1 May 14th 2-3pm

Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4672244227104153101

Taskforce Meeting #2 June 17th 2-3:30 pm

Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1911447495572622093

Taskforce Meeting #3 June 23rd 10- 11am

Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4780216268951837965

Information on the workgroup meetings is not public at this time.