A draft document obtained by Reaching Higher NH indicates that the state is considering sweeping changes to New Hampshire’s Minimum Standards for Public School Approval (Ed 306 Administrative Rules). The document includes changes to state requirements around school climate and code of discipline, locally developed competencies, and program elements, and changes to definitions and terminology that could clear a pathway to broaden what classifies as a “public school.”
This draft document was recently sent to four New Hampshire education professional associations for feedback, following a year and a half of work by the National Center for Competency-Based Learning (NCCBL) and a nine-member task force. Until this point, there has been no opportunity for broad public input.
The draft rules are expected to be presented to the State Board of Education in the fall. RHNH will publish opportunities for feedback as soon as they are announced, and will release more information and analysis in the coming weeks. To stay informed, sign up for our New Hampshire Education Network (NHEN), here: bit.ly/nhednetwork and follow us on social media.
About the Process
The revision process was initiated by a contract between NCCBL and the NH Department of Education (NHED), which was approved by the NH Executive Council in November 2020 and extended in June 2021. In early 2021, NCCBL President Fred Bramante selected a nine-member task force to draft the revisions to the standards, which they submitted that summer.
NCCBL then sent the proposed revisions to the NHED for review. Both the NHED and NCCBL reportedly made significant changes to the task force’s initial proposal.
To date, the process was done without public input, and there are no public minutes for any meetings between the task force, NCCBL, and/or the NHED. As such, it is unclear which changes were proposed by the task force and which were proposed by either NCCBL or NHED.
Five Key Themes
Reaching Higher NH has distilled the major takeaways into five key themes. Note that these themes are not comprehensive of the entire proposal.
The five key themes include:
- Equity and student protections: Eliminates references to protected classes identified in anti-discrimination protections, eliminates the establishment of a fair and equitable code of discipline, and focuses on individual student “under-performance” rather than closing equity gaps.
- Guts program elements: Replaces detailed frameworks for building learning programs in each content area to broad, boilerplate language.
- Strips local control: Removes most references to locally developed district, course, and graduation competencies; removes certified educators from the awarding of credit; changes threshold for credit from “mastery” of competencies to “acknowledgment” of competencies.
- Requires the adoption of Personal Learning Plans: Requires districts to adopt policies for how districts will implement Personal Learning Plans (PLPs), which are not defined in the rules but are commonly known as individual learning plans for students that include goals, action steps, and reflections. However, the rules do not include resources, supports, or assistance from the state in helping districts build capacity to meet these new requirements.
- Changes definitions and terminology to open the door for the unbundling of public schools: Terminology changes throughout the document, including the replacement of the word “courses” with “learning opportunities” and “instruction” with “learning.” These changes are concerning, as they appear to build a system that minimizes formal instruction in favor of a commodified, independent, and private education marketplace.
About the Unbundling of Public Schools
The language changes from “courses” to “learning opportunities,” as well as the apparent standardization of competencies, credits, and program elements, present a concerning trend. While we cannot determine the intentionality of the task force or NCCBL, these changes — while subtle — could create the conditions for “unbundling” K-12 public education.
“Unbundling” is a term that is beginning to appear nationally, particularly in the context of higher education programs, but pro-voucher and pro-privatization organizations are beginning to advocate for its adoption in K-12 education as well. Under an “unbundled” education system, schools are standardized to the point where they can be broken into different elements and then outsourced and commodified.
“Rather than schools having to be everything to everyone, they can focus on providing what they do best, and leaning on outside providers to do what they do best… Rather than operating classes in-house that might be expensive to put on or difficult to find great teachers for, or are difficult for any number of other reasons, imagine if they simply paid for students to get that learning somewhere else in the community.”
“Reimagine education through the lens of unbundling and explore how the innovations of today can lead to a new education system designed around individual students. Whether it’s pods, microschools, parent-teacher compacts, part-time public school enrollment, or parent directed funding, emerging policy solutions are expanding learner opportunities and helping students succeed.”
For more information on these themes, watch RHNH’s webinar: