NH Education News Roundup, September 13, 2021

Reaching Higher live-streamed the September 13 meeting of the Advisory Council on Career and Technical Education on our Facebook page.

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: Reaching Higher resumes live-streaming, State Board of Ed okays charter expansions and Learn Everywhere karate program, local organizations present webinar on COVID’s social-emotional impact, and VLACS struggles to keep up with ballooning enrollment. 

Reaching Higher returns to livestreaming as remote access to public meetings winds down — Reaching Higher has resumed livestreaming key education-related public meetings that do not offer remote access, as the State House and state departments return largely to pre-pandemic operations. For nearly 18 months, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most public meetings included remote access via Zoom, as per Gov. Chris Sununu’s emergency order. The practice led to increased public engagement: Virtual public hearings for some of last year’s notable education legislation brought historic turnout, and local officials also noted an increase in attendance at meetings via Zoom. This fall, however, most House and Senate committees, as well as the Executive Council, have stopped offering a remote option. Follow Reaching Higher on Facebook to see our livestream coverage.

State Board of Education approves charter expansions, Learn Everywhere program, distance learning rules — At its meeting last Thursday, the State Board of Education approved the first “Learn Everywhere” program to offer karate. Neil Stone’s Karate Academy of Hollis will offer two-credit certificates in Okinawan Karate, each equivalent to a one-semester physical education elective credit. The board also approved expansions for two charter schools, the Windham Academy Public Charter School and the Robert Frost Public Charter School, as well as a request by the Compass Classical Academy of Franklin to move into a school building vacated due to the closing of the Union Sanborn School, a public elementary school in Northfield. Additionally, the board approved an initial proposal for new rules governing distance learning. The rules reiterate that all students must have access to full-day, in-person learning and that distance learning may be offered, but only in certain, limited circumstances including inclement weather and direct parental requests. Schools are allowed, but not required, to accommodate such requests.

Webinar will focus on social-emotional impact of COVID-19 — The Parent Information Center and NAMI NH will host “Understanding the Social and Emotional Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Students” on Thursday, September 23, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. via Zoom. The free webinar will address how students’ mental health affects their ability to learn and acclimate to social situations and what parents, caregivers, and schools can do to support a healthy transition back to school. Presenters include Maureen Shields from the Parent Information Center, Michele Watson from NAMI NH, and Fern Seiden from the Merrimack School District.  Register here

Enrollment spike causing technical difficulties for VLACS — The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) is having trouble accommodating a surge in students this fall, since becoming the only remote option for many public schools in the state. VLACS CEO Steve Kossakoski told WMUR that the school has seen a 48% increase in enrollment — about 2,300 new students — in recent weeks. Some parents say they’ve been waiting weeks to enroll their children. With schools around the state now operating fully in-person, most are recommending VLACS for families still seeking a remote option. The Exeter-based school is also transitioning to a new learning management system, which may have complicated the technical difficulties. 

It’s that time of year — House lawmakers are drafting their Legislative Service Requests (LSRs) for the 2022 legislative session. LSRs are titles of bills and provide some insight into what lawmakers are thinking for the upcoming session. The Senate’s filing window is in October. Keep up to date with what’s happening by joining our NH Education Network: Register here

Future of proposed university system merger remains uncertain — An article published by the Granite State News Collaborative last week examines the fate of the merger of the University System of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire proposed as part of Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget earlier this year. Promoted by the Governor as a lifeline for the college systems at a time of declining enrollment and rising costs, the merger failed to gain traction in either the House or the Senate. The House put the brakes on the proposal, creating a special commission to study a potential merger. That group is expected to make recommendations for the 2022 legislative session this fall. Education and business leaders were divided over the merger, and many groups raised concerns over the impact on the Community College System’s ability to serve a distinct student population. The New Hampshire Alliance for College and Career Readiness hosted a roundtable devoted largely to the topic last May.

Pretesting tool helps young people discover career aptitudes — A new pre-testing platform being utilized in some Career and Technical Education centers around the country helps students discover career skills that align with high-demand fields. The digital tool uses science-based “brain games” and preliminary tests to gauge aptitude and knowledge. Results can aid instructors in guiding students onto career pathways that match their skills, as well as identifying areas in need of improvement for students with their sights on a particular career. Researchers say the tool may help students discover careers they may not have considered due to gender norms and other factors influencing self-reported career interests.

Education Up Close

A Generation of American Men Give Up on College: ‘I Just Feel Lost’
Wall Street Journal, Douglas Belkin, September 6, 2021

Using Holocaust Education to Develop Tolerance, Empathy in Schools
Ed Note, Ariel Behrman, September 10, 2021

20 Suggestions About Teaching in a Class Where All Students Have Laptops
Education Week, Larry Ferlazzo, September 7, 2021