NH Education Roundup, Dec. 21, 2020

In this issue of Reaching Higher NH’s Education News Brief: Pending ConVal decision may affect school funding debate; new data shows more students are struggling in Manchester; new poll finds students are feeling “OK”; and summer learning programs show important benefits.

Photo: Ben McLeod (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Court Decision May Shape School Funding Debate — The Commission to Study School Funding has completed its final report, and some of its recommendations are making their way into legislation for the coming session, which begins Jan. 6; meanwhile, a ruling on the ConVal case may be imminent. Originally filed by the ConVal School District in March, 2019, the case claims that the state is failing to adequately fund its public schools. Twenty-six school districts, as well as the New Hampshire School Boards Association, signed onto an amicus brief supporting the case, and the NH Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Sept. 24. There is no deadline or timeframe for when the Court will issue an opinion. Oral arguments for both of the Claremont lawsuits took place in September, with decisions issued in late December. Reaching Higher interviewed John Tobin, the attorney handling the amicus brief, in September about what the case could mean for NH schools. 

Manchester Schools Report Increase in Failing Grades, Absences — About 10% more middle and high school students failed or missed classes this quarter than a year ago in the Manchester School District, according to new data released by the district. More than 40% of middle and high school students were failing at least one class, and about a third had accrued five or more absences, New Hampshire Public Radio reported last week. The numbers were higher for English Learners, students with special needs, and Black and Latino high school students. The district is working to assess learning gaps using a competency based model and has expanded tutoring services, Superintendent Amy Allen told NHPR. 

New Poll Finds Most Students Doing “OK” — The majority of students in grades 7-12 who participated in a newly published poll commissioned by the National PTA and the National Education Association report that they’re doing “OK,” and three quarters believe they are getting a good education. Those numbers are true across different racial groups. However, four in 10 students say their families are under economic strain, a number that is higher among Black students, and only 32% of students say they are currently doing well academically, as compared with 58% who say they were doing well academically before the pandemic.  Additionally, students said they were suffering from boredom and missed interaction with friends and teachers. The poll, led by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, was conducted in the form of online focus groups with 1,328 public school students in grades 7-12 and included suburban, rural, and urban students, as well as a mix of races and backgrounds. 

Summer Learning Programs Provide Long-term Benefits, Report Finds — Children who regularly attend a high-quality, voluntary summer learning program see academic benefits that persist for up to three years, according to a new RAND study commissioned by the Wallace Foundation. Building on previous RAND studies, the report found that students who consistently attended summer learning programs for two summers outperformed control groups in math, language arts, and social-emotional skills, and that some of those benefits remained up to three years later. Based on the findings, researchers recommend that urban districts consider offering summer learning programs that offer at least three hours of instruction per day for at least five weeks and that they promote regular attendance. 


Teachers in High-Poverty Schools Penalized Unfairly in Observations, Study Says
Education Week, Madeline Will, Dec. 14, 2020

If Teachers Get the Vaccine Quickly, Can Students Get Back to School?
New York Times, Eliza Shapiro and Shawn Hubler, Dec. 17, 2020

Empty Seats: Audit Recommends Closing Four Manchester Elementary Schools
Union Leader, Paul Feely, Dec. 13, 2020


Our newsletter will be on pause next week due to the holidays. We’ll be back on Jan. 4. 

The new Legislative session begins on Jan 6. View the House and Senate calendars here