NH Education News Roundup, September 27, 2021

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: Alliance takes a deep dive into career pathways; family engagement blossoms at one NH middle school; staffing shortages plague schools around the state; COVID tracking and protocols continue to create challenges; and national survey finds parents pleased with their public schools. 

Alliance offers study on exemplary career pathway systems — With the concept of career pathways in the spotlight around the state, the New Hampshire Alliance for College and Career Readiness has conducted a studyexploring key traits and practices for building exemplary career pathway systems. The study, published last week, was a key focus of summer research for the Alliance and Reaching Higher NH. It provides a dive into research-based practices and advancements in other states, as well as an overview of the legislation and administrative rules in New Hampshire, in order to offer clarity and guidance to the various discussions of career pathways. 

Derry middle school strives to build on back-to-school enthusiasm — A palpable sense of excitement is in the air as students return to full-time, in person learning, says Gilbert H. Hood Middle School Principal Kim Carpentino, and that’s translating into increased family engagement. The latest story in Reaching Higher’s “Bright Ideas” series describes the school’s efforts to sustain and strengthen school-to-home ties, a key factor in student success. 

NH schools struggling to fill vacancies stemming from COVID and other factors — Schools across the state are confronting a shortage of applicants for teacher and support staff positions, the New Hampshire Bulletin reported last week. The reasons range from safety concerns to burnout to the broader realities of the tight job market, and the departures creating the shortage seem to be concentrated on each end of the spectrum: new teachers and teachers nearing retirement.

State’s COVID tracking tool for schools contains discrepancies, review finds — The Department of Health and Human Service’s school dashboard for tracking COVID-19 cases contains out-of-date information and numerous inaccuracies, according to a review by InDepthNH. The number of cases reported on the dashboard differs from numbers reported on school district sites and by school administrators, and several schools are listed as operating in remote or hybrid mode even though all schools are currently operating in person, the review found. State officials have argued that the dashboard merely lags behind actual numbers, but that explanation does not seem to account for all of the discrepancies, the report concluded. Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told InDepthNH that she was looking into the concerns. At a COVID-19 briefing earlier this month, Shibinette said tracking cases at the state level has become more difficult because of changes in testing and protocol. “The reality is that testing is so broad now that there is likely going to be cases that we know nothing about,” she said.

Remote options lacking for COVID-positive students — Students who have to quarantine due to positive COVID-19 tests have limited options for studying at home this year, the Concord Monitor reported last week. State guidance requires that students who receive a positive COVID test quarantine for 10 days, but most schools did away with remote schooling options this year as they reopened for full-time, in person learning. Quarantined students can access their assignments remotely, but they no longer have access to direct remote instruction, which can be challenging for younger children and their families.

New poll shows parents largely pleased with their children’s schools — In spite of the difficulties and controversies of the past year, the majority of Americans gave their communities’ teachers high marks in a new poll released by PDK International, a professional association for educators. Two-thirds of the K-12 public school parents polled gave the teachers in their communities an A or a B for their pandemic response, and almost as many gave the schools in their community an A or a B. Three-quarters of parents said they were confident in their school’s ability to help students catch up on academics they missed, and 69% said they were confident their school could help students deal with the social-emotional impact of the pandemic. 

FAFSA form will reflect only minor changes this fall — Few of the changes to the federal student aid process passed by Congress last year will go into effect on this year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which comes out on October 1, the New York Times reported last week. The full overhaul reduces the number of questions on the form by about two-thirds and revises the formula for who receives aid. However, only a couple of noteworthy changes will make it into this year’s form: Failing to register for the draft or having a drug conviction will no longer affect a student’s eligibility for aid. The bulk of the changes are now expected to go into effect next fall.

New Hampshire lawmakers passed legislation this year that aims to increase the number of students filling out the FAFSA. SB 147 makes the FAFSA a graduation requirement starting in 2024 and requires schools to provide support and assistance in meeting the requirement as well as to report to the Department of Education the number and percentage of students who receive in-person assistance with the application.

Education Up Close

First nationwide look at racial breakdown of career education confirms deep divides
Hechinger Report, Sarah Butrymowicz, September 16, 2021

4 Myths About Suspensions That Could Hurt Students Long Term
Education Week, Sarah D. Sparks, August 26, 2021

James Kvaal as Under Secretary: What to Expect
Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Rebecca Kelliher, September 22, 2021