Eight students enrolled in a Learn Everywhere program in New Hampshire during the 2021-2022 school year, according to a report released on Tuesday by the NH Department of Education.
Twelve programs were approved to offer credit in the reporting period, which was July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022, according to the Department’s report. However, of the twelve, only two programs actually enrolled students during the 2021-2022 school year: NH Academy of Science, which enrolled seven students, and FIRST Robotics, which enrolled one student. All eight students who enrolled in the programs earned academic credit for their participation.
Four programs — Signum Academy, Kumon, Boys and Girls Club of Souhegan Valley, and Seacoast United Sports — will not seek program reapproval. None of these programs enrolled students during the reporting period.
According to the individual reports, approved program providers say that, despite interest in their regular programming, there is little interest in their credit-bearing programs.
“We have yet to find much interest in the program on our own, and we would appreciate whatever help the state could provide to spread the word,” reads a report filed by Portsmouth Aikido. “If other organizations have found success in this regard, we would appreciate hearing more about what they’ve done.”
Learn Everywhere is a program that was spearheaded in 2018 by NH Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. The program requires public high schools to award graduation credits to students who attend state-approved programs at private and nonprofit organizations. These programs are separate from the students’ public school and are not required to be approved by the local school district.
However, the program has faced strong public opposition for the ways in which it outsources and privatizes public education, restricts local control, and widens the opportunity gap for students.
The first Learn Everywhere program was approved by the NH State Board of Education in 2020. Since then, applications for program approval and enrollment have been slower than expected. Only four of the 21 organizations that wrote letters of support for Learn Everywhere when the proposal was moving through the State Board have been approved as providers.
Eroding offerings at local public schools and privatizing public schools
As state funding for public schools shrinks, supporters of Learn Everywhere point to the program as a way for schools to save money. The Commissioner highlighted this at a May 15, 2019, presentation in Dublin. By encouraging students to take classes at private and nonprofit organizations, districts would be able to cut programs offered at their local public schools, he said.
State Board member Ann Lane also alluded to that point during the Board’s deliberations on the program in 2019: “It will be interesting… as a student chooses to take credit outside of the building because it will translate, down the road, to savings for some districts.”
Helen Honorow, a former State Board of Education member, described Learn Everywhere as the Commissioner’s initiative to privatize elements of public education, and it would ultimately exacerbate the opportunity gap when the Board was debating the program:
“The Commissioner, he talked about parents not being able to afford a whole private school, but they could buy a piece of private school. That’s something he talked to me about. And we [the Board of Education] heard that this will increase the equity gap.”
The NH Department of Education will present enrollment data for the Learn Everywhere program at the next State Board of Education meeting on October 13 at Granite State College in Concord. The State Board will have an option to listen to the meeting via Zoom. Register for the Zoom link here.