NH Education News Digest, January 2023

Dear Friends and Colleagues: 

We’re poised on the edge of another busy legislative session in New Hampshire, and once again there’s much at stake for public education. The Reaching Higher policy team has been busy researching the proposed legislation for the 2023 session and identifying topics we plan to devote our energy to this year – and we’re excited to share our work with you. Please join us next Wednesday, January 18, at 1 p.m., for a webinar on what we’re expecting for the 2023 session. Reaching Higher Policy Director Christina Pretorius will catch us up on ongoing and new education-related topics, including: 

  • The minimum standards revision process
  • Efforts to strengthen and diversify NH’s teaching profession
  • School funding 
  • The latest privatization efforts
  • School building aid 
  • The state budget
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) efforts

The event is free and open to all, but registration is required. Register here. And if you’re not already a member of our New Hampshire Education Network, we invite you to join usin 2023. Along with reading our monthly newsletter, it’s a great way to stay informed about critical education issues throughout the year.

Thanks for reading,

The Reaching Higher Team

New data shows decline in public, private, and home school enrollment 

Enrollment in public district schools, private schools, and homeschool programs dropped between 2021 and 2022, according to recent data released by the NH Department of Education. 

The number of students enrolled in public district schools dropped by about 1%, which is consistent with a decades-long trend due mostly to the state’s aging population. Private school enrollment dropped by 3%, while the number of homeschooled students dropped by 15%. 

Enrollment in public charter schools increased by 12%, largely due to three new charter schools that have opened in Fall 2022. 

About 86% of New Hampshire’s school-aged youth attend public district school. Nine percent of students attend a private school, and 3% attend a public charter school. The remaining 2% are in homeschool programs. 

It is unknown at this time if, or how many of, the students enrolled in the statewide school voucher program are enrolled in private schools and how many are homeschooled. It is also unclear whether school voucher recipients are included in the enrollment figures above.

Hanover Council Executive Linda Addante and Dresden School Board Representative Vidushi Sharma discuss the Hanover Council in the Hanover High School library. Photo by Sarah Earle.

Spotlight on Student Voice

“Nothing is beyond the reasonable curiosity and investigation of the students.” – Linda Addante, Council Executive for the Hanover High School Council. 

The Hanover High School Council represents a time-honored approach to participatory democracy. Council members have decision-making authority on numerous issues, a structure designed to maximize student participation, and a history of student-staff collaboration.

Reaching Higher visited Hanover High School to see the Council in action and chat with some of its members. Read the story here. And learn about other ways to take student voice further with our new Student School Board Member toolkit

Charitable Foundation’s Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical gives teachers time to explore 

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation invites teachers with innovative ideas for education to apply to this year’s Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical program. Applications open January 17 for this annual opportunity, which awards a year-long leave of absence to an exceptional New Hampshire public school teacher. Providing funding directly to the teacher’s school district, the sabbatical offers the teacher an opportunity to explore new approaches to teaching through a self-designed project. The teacher and school also gain statewide recognition for the work. Reaching Higher Board Member Misty Crompton is a past recipient. During her sabbatical year, she worked with a variety of local organizations and partnered with educators across the country to help provide easily accessible digital curriculum resources and community supports for educators. 

Learn more about the sabbatical program and apply here

Reaching Higher welcomes two new board members

Reaching Higher is delighted to welcome two new members to our board of directors: Misty Crompton and Dr. Lowell Chris Matthews. 

A dedicated classroom teacher for 22 years, Crompton currently teaches 7th grade social studies at West Running Brook Middle School in Derry. She has served in a variety of leadership and service roles over the years and was the recipient of the 2020 Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical Award through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.During her sabbatical year, she worked on a multi-faceted project focused on educational equity. 

An associate professor of Business Administration & Management at Southern New Hampshire University, Dr. Matthews is the director of the University Honors Program and founding director of Project AIM, which offers incarcerated learners a pathway to a college degree. He is an active member of the SNHU community, advising the Men’s Volleyball Club and singing in the SNHU choir, and he serves in leadership roles for several national professional and non-profit organizations. 

Read more about our board here

Meet Our Team: Matt Gerding, Policy Analyst

Matt Gerding joined Reaching Higher in the summer of 2022 as our new policy analyst. Matt comes to us from the Somersworth School District, where he taught middle school math and science.  Not only does his experience in the classroom inform his work, he sees a lot of parallels between the two worlds.  Looking back at your career as a middle school teacher, what are the pieces that stick with you the most and color the way you approach your work here? 

The reason I loved middle school so much was the age group and the kids that I got to work with.  I feel like middle school is an interesting set of years. Most of them want to be treated as adults. But they’re also still young and want to have fun and act childish, which allowed me to kind of feel comfortable tapping into the kid side and doing activities that were really fun, going outside of the box, or getting outside and getting our hands dirty.

In terms of how my own view of the world brought me from there to here, I think it’s just a matter of looking at things creatively and figuring out, how can the challenges that we face, whether they be academic or political or specific to policy, how do those challenges get best solved in unique and creative ways?

If you were to go back to your middle school classroom and chat with them about what you do now, how would you describe your work? 

I think I would describe myself as a researcher first. I feel like that is something that they are super familiar with because that’s a lot of what they do, especially in middle school. [I would] explain that I do research on well-studied ways to strengthen public schools and make sure that they remain thriving throughout New Hampshire.

I know you have a particular interest in school funding, having worked with the Commission to Study School Funding in 2020. Why is this such an important topic to you? 

School funding is important to me for so many reasons. I grew up in New Hampshire. I went through public schools for the entirety of my education, from kindergarten all the way to master’s degree. I’m also an educator. I just have seen firsthand how those inequities can have a direct impact on students, teachers, families, parents, administrators – everyone is affected. What’s shocked me most is that districts that need funding most, that have big gaps that need to be filled, either academic gaps or budgetary gaps, are often the ones most harmed by the policies at the state level. And that I think is a real disservice to the students that have so much potential to do so well and to the families that only want the best for their kids, and yet unfortunately happen to be just 10 meters behind the starting block because property values in their town happen to be that much lower.

Read the interview here or listen to the full audio version here

James McKim: Teachers deserve more, school funding is complicated
Union Leader, James T. McKim, January 8, 2023

Ryan Terrell: Teachers deserve more, but schools aren’t underfunded
Union Leader, Ryan Terrell, January 2, 2023

NH parents seek teachable moment after racist death threat to son: ‘This is not right’ 
Seacoast Online, Melanie Matts, January 8, 2023

How did Colorado community colleges double their graduation rate? By better meeting student needs
Chalkbeat, Jason Gonzales, December 13, 2022

How School Funding Falls Short, by the Numbers
Education Week, Mark Lieberman, December 28, 2022

PROOF POINTS: The lesson the arts teach
Hechinger Report, Jill Barshay, January 2, 2023