NH Education News Roundup, August 30, 2021

Portsmouth CTE students design planters to beautify downtown dining — After setting up Jersey barriers to expand outdoor dining in downtown Portsmouth last summer, city leaders and business owners were looking for a way to make the utilitarian solution a bit more attractive. Students in Portsmouth Career and Technical Center’s Architecture/ Design Build class came to their aid, designing wooden planter boxes that fit over the barriers. The project ultimately brought together a variety of groups and set the stage for ongoing collaboration between business leaders and career and technical education. The story is the first in a new Reaching Higher series highlighting solutions, innovations, and best practices in public education. 

State Board of Education adopts interim voucher rules, approves new Learn Everywhere programs —  On Friday, August 27, the NH State Board of Education adopted interim rules for the Education Freedom Account program that was passed as part of the state budget in June. The program provides taxpayer-funded vouchers for families to use on private and religious school tuition and homeschooling expenses. The Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR) approved the rules earlier this month, in spite of significant concerns raised by staff attorneys. The adopted rules do not include basic protections for students and families pertaining to safety or privacy. There is no requirement for education service providers to perform criminal background checks on their employees, including those that would have direct contact with students. Additionally, there is no requirement that a “negative” criminal background check — presumably meaning that the employee has a criminal record — would result in the service provider being barred from participating in the voucher program.

The Board also heard from leaders of two charter schools that are closing due to enrollment and funding issues: Making Community Connections in Manchester and PACE Academy Charter School in Pembroke. Board members expressed interest in takeaways that future charter schools could learn from.

Three new “Learn Everywhere” programs were approved on Friday as well: The Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley’s Theater Arts program (The Riverbend Youth Company), FIRST New Hampshire Robotics, and Seacoast United Sports Clubs.

NHPR’s ‘Community Conversations: COVID And The Classroom’ covers masks, mental health, and more — If you missed NHPR’s call-in special “Community Conversations: COVID And The Classroom” last week, you can listen here. The call-in show addressed a variety of topics, including teacher burnout, mental health, instructional models, and the debate over mask mandates and how it intersects with local control.  

NHPR’s “All Things Considered” host Peter Biello also spoke with NH Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut last week about safety protocols for schools and the new law that limits teaching about systemic racism. Asked about parents who were pushing back against mask mandates despite the proven effectiveness of mask usage, Edelblut said that parents should be the primary decision makers in health decisions for children. The Commissioner was also asked about the presence of white nationalist groups at recent school board meetings around the state, which in some cases have led to bullying. “You have to allow people to have a voice in those meetings,” he said. “I think that what we also have to do is we need to make sure that by allowing parents to have the primary voice in conversations that are taking place, those parents can help shape the education that our children are receiving.

Study finds meaningful relationships key to college transition — A six-year longitudinal study conducted by the University of South Carolina’s Pullias Center for Higher Education found that effective college transition programs share common features including proactive advising, personalized support, and an “ecology of validation.” Such programs ensure that students feel comfortable asking questions and avoid assuming they understand how to navigate higher education. 

“We found that students in our study succeeded because they were able to create a meaningful and trusting relationship with another human being on campus,” Dr. Adrianna Kezar, one of the study’s lead authors and the Dean’s Professor of Leadership and Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education at USC, told Diverse: Issues in Education. “And that person was able to connect them to a variety of supports to help build their confidence in ways that technology does not. A lot of what we found was more human than data.”

Education Up Close

EVENT: “Generation Absent: Post-COVID fallout and long-term fixes”
Chalkbeat, Wednesday, September 1, 2021, 8 a.m.

Survey: Pandemic digital learning tools will impact curriculum for years to come
K-12 Dive, Shawna De La Rosa, August 24, 2021

A principal leaves his beloved school after an intense year
Hechinger Report, Katie Reckdahl, August 24, 2021

‘Community Schools’ See Revival in Time of Heightened Need
U.S. News & World Report, Lauren Camera, August 25, 2021