NH Education News Roundup, August 9, 2021

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: Reaching Higher team presents research on student pathways; Governor acts on education-related bills; final batch of federal relief funds headed to NH; and Reaching Higher’s new podcast episode highlights first-generation college students. 

Reaching Higher presents on career pathways at NH-CTE (Career and Technical Education) Annual Summer Learning Series— With the concept of “career pathways” taking root in New Hampshire schools, Reaching Higher has been conducting research on best practices in career pathways nationwide. The team presented a summary of its findings at the annual NH CTE Summer Learning Series in Portsmouth last week. Exemplary career pathways share common traits including flexibility, accessibility, strong mentorship and guidance, and meaningful community connections, explained Reaching Higher Policy Director Christina Pretorius, Public Policy Researcher Kayla Provencher and Gov. John G. Winant Fellow Hannah Harding. The presentation led to a lively discussion of pathways, including key elements and current challenges. Adequate funding is critical to the development of career pathways, educators said. RHNH, through the Alliance for College and Career Readiness, will publish its work on this topic in the coming weeks.  The conference invited the opportunity to issue a soft launch of this work in an effort to collect feedback from the NH career and technical education community.  

Governor signs high school civics test requirement, vetoes curriculum bill — A new bill signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu last week requires high school students to pass a national civics exam as a prerequisite to graduation. Beginning in 2023, high school students will need to score a 70% or better on the civics naturalization examination, the exam given to U.S. residents seeking citizenship, in order to graduate. 

Also last week, Sununu vetoed a bill that would have created more detailed curriculum requirements for NH schools, explaining that he agreed with the intentions of the guidelines but that they needed “additional clarity.” HB 242, a Republican-sponsored bill, attempted to flesh out the state’s criteria for an adequate education and added topics such as environmental science and financial literacy to curriculum requirements. Rep. Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill), the bill’s sponsor, told the New Hampshire Bulletin he was surprised by the veto.

State’s plans for federal relief funds approved — The U.S. Department of Education announced the approval of New Hampshire’s plans for distributing its remaining federal relief funds to K-12 schools last week, releasing the final $116 million of more than $244 million in federal relief funds earmarked for New Hampshire schools. The state’s approved plans include a possible expansion of partnerships with community-based organizations to provide after-school opportunities; a contract that will offer training for camp counselors on identifying and responding to mental and behavioral health issues; and strategies to identify and address teacher workforce shortages. Earlier this year, the Department distributed two thirds of the ARP ESSER funds, totaling $81 billion, to 50 states and the District of Columbia. The remaining funds are being made available as state plans are approved.

Mental health, accelerated learning, technology access among top trends for federal relief funds — The Education Commission of the States has been tracking and analyzing how school districts are spending or planning to spend American Rescue Plan and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds and has identified several key spending categories. These include social/emotional and mental health, accelerated and unfinished learning, staff and student support, teacher recruitment and retention, and digital divide/technology access. New Hampshire is among 24 states that are focusing funds on accelerated and unfinished learning, according to the Commission’s research.

Reaching Higher’s latest podcast focuses on first-generation college students — First-generation college students face specific challenges such as decoding the “hidden curriculum” of college life, but they also bring strong positive traits such as perseverance to the table. In the latest episode of “School Talk,” Hannah Harding, a summer intern at Reaching Higher, talks about the research she’s conducting on “first gens” at UNH as well as her own experiences as a first generation college student. Listen here. 

Higher ed leaders, educators, and lawmakers have been grappling with how best to support non-traditional and first-generation college students, following a proposed merger of the University System of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire in the state budget. Lawmakers ultimately agreed to maintain separate funding and governance structures for the two systems in their final budget negotiations in June, but a new merger proposal is expected this fall. 

Attention students: Sign-ups for Student Voice’s 2021-22 programs, including the Learning Lab, Ambassadors Program, Journalism Fellowship and Organizing Fellowship are open now through Aug. 22, 2021. The programs equip students to advance educational equity in their schools and communities and are open to all K-12 students from across the United States, regardless of experience or background. All Fellows will receive a $1,000 stipend.  Learn more and sign up here

Interactive financial tools available for prospective college students — The Hechinger Report has several tools available for this year’s senior class as they begin the college search and application process. The Tuition Tracker allows students to select an institution and see an estimate of what they’ll pay after aid based on household income, and the Offer Letter Decoder breaks down financial aid packages by types of aid. Families can also examine the financial health of the schools they’re considering, using a tool that aggregates information including enrollment, retention, average tuition, and appropriations. Not all institutions are included in the tracker. 

Education Up Close

WEBINAR: Protecting Students’ Privacy While Measuring their Health and Well-Being
Education Commission of the States, August 26, 2021

VIDEO: Special Report: How COVID’s K-Shaped Recession Could Widen Achievement Gaps and Spark a Classroom Crisis
The 74, Edited by James Fields, August 1, 2021

10 Non-Standard Ideas About Going Back to School 
Education Week, Nancy Flanagan, August 6, 2016