NH Education Roundup, Oct. 26, 2020

DOE Division Director Stephen Appleby (left) and State Board of Education Member Cindy Chagnon (right) announce Danielle Boutin (center) as the 2021 NH Teacher of the Year.

In this issue of Reaching Higher NH’s Education News Brief: Nashua educator named 2021 Teacher of the Year; FAFSA form released; School Funding Commission studies school cost model; and NH classes head outdoors. 

Nashua Educator Named Teacher of the Year — Danielle Boutin, an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher at Ledge Street Elementary School in Nashua, was named 2021 NH Teacher of the Year in a ceremony on the State House Lawn in Concord on Friday, Oct. 23. Boutin has taught at the school for the past 11 years, working with students from different cultures and linguistic backgrounds. She serves on several state ELL advisory committees and has built a strong network to help families in her community who are dealing with food and housing insecurity, domestic violence, and trauma. Sponsored by the Geskus Studios and Yearbook Publishing, the NH Teacher of the Year Program honors teachers who are “capable of speaking for and energizing the teaching profession, and representing the positive contributions of all teachers statewide.”

Annual FAFSA Form Released — The 2021-22 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is now available for current and upcoming college students. The U.S. Department of Education has added new help topics and tools to aid students in navigating the form. Students can apply for federal student aid before each year of college. Colleges use FAFSA data to determine federal aid eligibility, and many states and colleges have priority deadlines by which students must complete the FAFSA to be considered for aid programs.

School Funding Commission Analyzes Cost Model — The Commission to Study School Funding took a deep dive into the Estimated Cost Model produced by American Institutes for Research (AIR) at its Oct. 19 meeting. The model uses regression to quantify the relationship between student outcomes and variables such as free and reduced price lunch eligibility and special education. It then applies the variables to a weighted formula to predict the costs for each district to achieve the average state outcome. The weights play a larger role than in the current funding formula.

“We want to include things that are outside the district’s control and that significantly drive costs,” AIR representative Drew Atchison explained to the Commission. 

Commission members raised questions about how the model reflects factors such as Pre-K programming, which some schools offer and some do not, and whether relying on state averages for both spending and student outcomes is the best approach. The Commission recently voted to use AIR’s outcomes-based model as it moves forward with recommendations for the upcoming Legislative session. However, questions remain as to how the state can effectively adopt such a model, as opposed to the current inputs-based model. 

Commission Work Groups met on Thursday, Oct. 22. The Fiscal Policy Group discussed how to build property tax relief mechanisms into the funding formula proposed by AIR, which relies on a uniform statewide property tax collected at the local level and distributed to schools based on need. 

“I think that a relief program across both the rental group and the homeowner group is essential if we’re going to go with a higher statewide property tax,” said Dick Ames (D-Jaffrey). 

The Commission’s recommendations are due Dec. 1. 

New Hampshire Schools Experiment With Outdoor Learning — As schools continue trying to balance student needs with public safety, some educators are taking lessons outside, where the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus is lower. One teacher in Stoddard helped her students build an outdoor classroom and is holding almost all her classes in it. Other schools around the state have held lessons outside as well. Teachers say the outdoor classrooms afford many educational benefits in addition to keeping students safer. 

Learning Opportunities

Webinar: Rethinking the College Path
Tuesday, October 27, 12-1 p.m., free
Register here

Webinar: The Homework Gap:
Policy Solutions for Keeping Students Connected 
Monday, October 26, 2-3 p.m.
Register here

What We’re Reading

A Day in the Life of a Hybrid Teacher
Education Week, Mary McConnaha, Oct. 20, 2020

How Election Day Could Alter COVID-19 Aids Talks for Education
Education Week, Andrew UjiFusa, Oct. 23, 2020

Report: SEL Programs Benefit from Partnerships, Adults’ Skills
Education Dive, Naaz Modan, Oct. 21, 2020

After the Pandemic, A Revolution in Education and the Workforce Awaits
New York Times, Thomas Freidman, October 20, 2020