January 28th, 2019
New Hampshire State Board of Education
101 Pleasant Street
Concord, New Hampshire 03301
Dear Members of the State Board of Education;
As a public school educator with over two decades of experience, I wholeheartedly support personalized learning and extended learning opportunities for students. Now more than ever, learning experiences that occur beyond brick and mortar school buildings and traditional classrooms are an integral part of developing the skills it takes for the students of today to succeed in the 21st century – and beyond.
As I walk through schools across the state, I see many examples of the myriad ways in which our educators have blended classroom learning with more global opportunities. Online learning is one such option, and is accessible to students of all grade levels. My own daughter, who is in the third grade at Peterborough Elementary School, engages regularly in school and at home in many different valuable learning experiences through a variety of online tools. Whole class opportunities that allow students to explore the world around them – colloquially known as field trips – can take on a whole new dimension thorough interactive casting applications through the internet. For students in secondary grades, virtual online learning can assist with credit recovery, enrichment, and meeting graduation requirements. These opportunities, and so many more, are in place and flourishing in public schools across the state of New Hampshire.
It is not just online that our educators and students are finding exciting learning opportunities. In our middle schools and especially our high schools, educators have recognized the need for an embraced the potential of extended learning opportunities (ELOs). Many schools have dedicated ELO coordinators, and many others have educators who coordinate ELOs for students as part of their overall responsibilities. Internships are just one type of ELO – each experience can be unique. In Monadnock, a group of students took part in an ELO led by a retired teacher in which they studied the Ashuelot River in Swanzey. Their research and findings on macroinvertebrates and Biotic Index calculations were posted on the NH Fish and Game Watershed Education Program website. This ELO encouraged collaboration and community by incorporating training and partnerships with the Ashuelot River Advisory Board, NH Fish and Game Department, NH Department of Environmental Services, NH EdGIS Specialist Team, Ersi, and Keene State College. Students participated in activities that had real-world implications, which highlighted and emphasized the role of our resource agencies and how they work to protect our environment.
Additionally, students at the high school level have access to 30 high school career and technical centers across the state of New Hampshire. These centers offer a wide range of opportunities to students – from training and certification in trades such as construction or welding to professions such as health science, graphic design, or information technology (to name a few). These centers offer state-of-the-art, hands-on learning opportunities that prepare many students to enter the workforce after graduation, if they choose, or attend a two or four-year post-secondary program (1).
The types of personalized learning and extended learning opportunities that our public schools in the State of New Hampshire offer to students are, simply put, numerous and of very high quality. As such, I am unclear how the Learn Everywhere program will foster and support these programs at our public schools.
How will the Department of Education implement and monitor this program?Specifically, what resources will be needed (and where will they come from) in order to:
• Support the personnel necessary to evaluate applications from non-educational entities for compliance with local school district competencies
• Conduct site visits to ensure safety and appropriate supervision
• Coordinate with labor officials to ensure compliance with labor laws
• Conduct on-site observations of students
• Evaluate the cooperating non-educational entity’s adherence to the credit-granting requirements
• Review completed student portfolios for the purpose of granting credit
This school year, our District received the attached letter regarding the school approval process. In short, while the Department was able to conduct the facility review, ‘…due to a lack of resources, the department will not be completing the content review at this time (2).’ It concerns me that the Department of Education would allocate resources to developing an entirely new program that would permit non-educational entities to grant local high school credit. This is especially concerning given that a lack of resources is preventing the Department from fulfilling its obligation under RSA 186:8 to ensure that existing public schools meet the minimum standards set forth in Ed 306.
I would encourage the Board of Education to first look to ensure adequate resources exist to support existing public schools – including current personalized learning and extended learning opportunities already offered – before venturing into the creation of an entirely new program that frankly seems as though it would parallel, and potentially negatively impact, existing programs.
Lisa A. Witte
Superintendent of Schools Monadnock Regional School District
600 Old Homestead Highway
Swanzey, New Hampshire 03446