CTE legislation promotes access through calendar alignment, embedded credits

CTE leaders helped shape bill’s content

Members of the Committee to Study Tuition and Transportation for Career and Technical Education meet at the Salem CTE Center in December. Photo credit: Kayla Provencher

On Wednesday, February 9, lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a bill that aims to expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) access by initiating calendar alignment requirements and formalizing requirements for embedded credits. Developed with input from CTE leaders, HB 1661 proposes a framework for Regional Career and Technical Education Center Agreements (RCTEAs) that would require calendar alignment, including start/stop times, unscheduled school closures or events, daily class start/stop times, credit requirements, and instructional times. It also enables students to earn embedded graduation credit within their CTE pathways.

Discussion On House Bill 1661

HB 1661, which resulted from the input of members of the statewide Advisory Council for CTE and others,  specifies the number of days that are not aligned between calendars for CTE Centers and sending school districts. The bill would require sending school districts and CTE Centers to renew their agreements every four years. The bill’s start date is July 1, 2022, but won’t be implemented until the rules developed by the Department of Education are adopted. For four years, the Commissioner may grant a waiver on unaligned days for extenuating or emergency purposes.

Matters of school calendars, school closures, and start/stop times are currently local decisions. Individual school boards have control and discretion over their school calendars, other than state requirements for days in school. 

Supporters of the proposal, including the New Hampshire Career and Technical Association (NHCTA), say that scheduling conflicts represent a significant obstacle to ensuring all students have access to CTE opportunities in the state.  NHCTA members recommended a tiered approach to implementation, with up to 10 days of calendar discrepancies allowed in the first year and eight the following year. This recommendation also suggested an annual review over three years, enabling further policy revisions on non-conflict instructional days within a designated region. 

Other organizations, including the New Hampshire School Administrators Association (NHSAA), supported the concept but raised concerns over the fiscal impact. “There will be fiscal impact to local districts as adjustments are made to accommodate these requirements,” said a member of the NHSAA. In addition, “The timeline of implementation for this would need to be pushed out to FY 2024 to allow for the adjustments required and funding to be contemplated at the state and local levels.”

CTE Leader Input

The Committee to Study Tuition and Transportation for Career and Technical Education (CTE) began meeting last summer and quickly zeroed in on calendar alignment between sending district schools and CTE centers as a top priority. As the discussion evolved and CTE leaders provided input on their experiences, embedded credits became a key priority of the study committee. 

Several CTE leaders, including those from Salem, Hudson, Milford, and Concord, have been constants at the group’s monthly meetings and offered input that has shaped the emerging legislation.

“In order for students to participate in these programs and others like them around the state, school leaders and lawmakers need to work together to create a strong framework for CTE to thrive,” said one CTE Director. 

In October, members of the CTE community spoke about the discrepancies between sending school district calendars and Regional CTE center calendars as a foundational issue to the success of CTE programs. Some reported their students were missing up to  40 days in class over the course of the year due to misalignment of calendars.

At the same time, CTE leaders expressed concern over making major changes in a short time period. Based on the direct feedback from these CTE leaders, representatives agreed to start with a maximum of 10 days where school calendars in the regional agreement do not align, gradually closing the gap to five. “We realize five days is a steep road to climb, and we have an amendment coming from a unanimous agreement from Tuition and Transportation.” Rep. Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) said during the bill’s public hearing.

Embedded Credits

One of the main discussion topics among committee members during the HB 1661 public hearing was embedded credits. A method for removing barriers to CTE, embedded credits are credits earned by demonstrating proficiency in a regional career and technical course or program combined with content area competencies. 

“One of the most impactful pieces of this bill is offering centers the ability to allow students to earn embedded graduation credit within a student’s CTE Pathway,” said a member of the NHCTA. 

In 2021, the New Hampshire Department of Education published a research brief on recommendations to increase access to CTE and expand opportunities for embedded academic credits in CTE courses as a strategy for increasing CTE equitable access. 

Some CTE centers already use embedded credit models within and across programs at their schools. At the Palmer Career and Technical Education Center in Hudson, students can receive Physical Education with a course in their JROTC program as well as a Math credit in their Construction program. At Region 14 Applied Technology Center, all CTE program classes are recognized as a 4th year of Math and English experience. In addition, Pinkerton Academy offers credit in Economics, Math, and Digital Literacy for courses within their programs.

Many CTE leaders hope to enhance their practice of offering embedded credits and believe that HB 1661 is an opportunity to do that. In the public hearing, a few who testified recommended that the House Education Committee form a working sub-committee to explore this topic further. 

“We do not want it lost that this bill is about much more than calendar conformity.  In fact, it strives to address matters that are persistent barriers to the equitable access of learning pathways students choose within the public education system,” one CTE leader told the Committee. 

Other states with embedded credits include West VirginiaMissouriGeorgia, and Michigan.

The House Education Committee’s executive session, scheduled for Wednesday, February 9, will be live-streamed on the state’s YouTube page: HERE.

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