Educators push back on NHED’s minimum standards overhaul: Proposal would “deny New Hampshire students the guarantee of a relevant, current, comprehensive education”

For the past year and a half, hundreds of educators have met in small group settings around the state to review the New Hampshire Department of Education’s proposed overhaul of the minimum standards for public school approval. These “Educator Feedback Sessions” have been independently led by Christine Downing, a Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment in SAU 32, who was also involved in the prior minimum standards update in 2014. 

Her goal was to get as many educators as possible to review the proposed changes. She led a total of ten, full-day work sessions to review the proposal and collect feedback, and has worked with over 300 educators, including teachers from all levels and subject areas, school psychologists, curriculum directors, and more. 

These sessions were not sponsored by, or affiliated with, the New Hampshire Department of Education or the contractor that worked to draft the proposal: Downing saw the lack of educator input in the process, and took it upon herself to organize the listening sessions and give them a voice in what the minimum standards should be. 

Most participants expressed substantial concern with the minimum standards, also known as the 306s. The minimum standards are meant to outline a baseline education for all students in the state, but the New Hampshire Department of Education’s proposed overhaul would weaken them, they said. 

“The proposed rules in their current draft do not improve the quality of education in public schools. They are not detailed enough, and would deny NH students the guarantee of a relevant, current, comprehensive education,” wrote one participant. 

The current minimum standards provide curriculum, instructional, and assessment mandates for each content area required under state law, including subjects like math, science, social studies, business education, art, physical education, and world languages. The NHED’s proposed overhaul, which they presented to the New Hampshire State Board of Education in February, would gut these requirements and make them optional, an effort that has been met with sharp opposition from education experts, leaders in the field, parents, and community members.

Downing presented her reports to the NHED and the State Board of Education in April during the public comment period, urging the State Board to restore the current requirements and work directly with content experts on revising the language to modernize and align them with best practices. 

One of the outputs of her work sessions was to begin to craft those content-specific recommendations, which she has provided to the NHED and State Board. 

But the most jarring feedback she received was the pushback that educators felt: that the NHED’s proposed overhaul would weaken and dismantle public schools and would open the door to privatization. 

“They work to dismantle it”

One of the consistent themes that emerged in the educator feedback sessions was shock: the NHED’s overhaul wouldn’t improve the quality of education in public schools, they said, but would work to dismantle it. 

“The weakening of minimum educational standards in the arts is abhorrent… To have any instances of ‘may’ leaves the ambiguity that arts is optional and not required. This is, of course, incorrect,” wrote one Music teacher. 

There were also a number of comments that noted the lack of educator input in the process, which many said would have made for a stronger proposal.

“A lack of teacher participation in this level of decision-making fails to recognize teachers as the educated professionals they are, shows a disregard for the value of public education, and conveys a lack of care for students… It is short-sighted at best and devastating to our students at worst,” wrote one educator. 

“I enjoyed connecting with other educators, but I wonder how much of this work will actually be recognized and considered by the DOE,” wrote one educator. “It seems, especially under this state’s current administration, that there is a clear agenda to allow for the transfer of public tax dollars into private entities under the guise of ‘freedom of education.’ I just wonder how much of our feedback as real educators in public schools will be actually considered by politicians who have unabashedly put their political and financial interests above the interests of NH students, taxpayers, and community members.”

Proposed rules raise many questions

A number of educators questioned the intent of the changes:

“How will New Hampshire students be competitive in the workplace and when applying to colleges if the proposed rules are adopted?,” asked one educator. “What is the true motivation behind the proposed rules? How many World Language and [American Sign Language] educators were part of the creation of the proposed rules? Why make all of these cuts? What does this achieve? Who does this benefit? “

One educator asked about the impact that the rules would have on school accreditation, if passed. The minimum standards are a key part of the accreditation process, which ensures that schools maintain a certain level of educational standards. Most schools in New Hampshire seek accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), which accredits schools globally to ensure that they are high-quality; however, the proposed rules could put school accreditation in jeopardy:

“Has anyone from NEASC looked at this? This seems to eliminate much of what is valued in this  accreditation process. Some of the changes make no sense and are contradictory. How will  schools pass Accreditation?,” asked one educator.

Next steps

The NHED and State Board will discuss the proposal at a public work session on Tuesday, May 28. The meeting will be held from 10 am – 2 pm at the NHED offices, 25 Hall Street, Concord, NH. The meeting is open to the public, but the State Board is not expected to allow public comment during the work session. The meeting will also be live streamed via Zoom. 


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For more information about RHNH’s work and analysis on the minimum standards for public school approval, visit or contact Christina Pretorius, Policy Director, at