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UL: “Opposition coalesces as ‘Learn Everywhere’ goes up for a vote Thursday”

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A front page story in today’s Union Leader front page tees up tomorrow’s State Board of Education vote on Learn Everywhere, Commissioner Edelblut’s personal effort to begin the process of privatizing public education in New Hampshire.  Highlights:

As the state Board of Education prepares to vote Thursday on a controversial “learn everywhere” program, the associations representing the state’s teachers, administrators, special educators, school boards and principals, along with the League of Women Voters, have all weighed in against the idea promoted by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and endorsed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

Thursday’s vote comes after months of public hearings and debate on a plan to allow academic credit for extracurricular activities that meet the approval of the state Board of Education, while bypassing local school boards and educators.

In a letter to the Board of Education released on Tuesday, the top education groups were united in their criticism of Edelblut’s proposal.

“We believe that as proposed, the ‘Learn Everywhere’ rules trample local control, are highly skewed toward wealthy families, grant graduation credits from non-accredited, non-credential sources, and provide little oversight and limited protections to students with disabilities and their families,” the letter states….

The League of Women Voters echoed that theme in their statement, pointing out that “New Hampshire’s public schools already award credit for work done outside the traditional high school program, including Extended Learning Opportunities coordinated by the local high schools.”

“We urge the State Board of Education to support learning opportunities such as these rather than the ill-defined Learn Everywhere proposal.”

In a recent interview, Edelblut defended Learn Everywhere as a way of standardizing extracurricular credit opportunities across the state, using the Women in Technology internship program at BAE as an example.

“I’ve got 24 young women working at BAE for 16 weeks. They come out of school at 1 p.m. and go over to BAE for a program. They have a tremendous experience, getting exposed to technology and learning all kinds of different things,” says the commissioner.

“When I did an informal survey of the educators who were there, there was one school that was granting the students credit, but the majority of schools were granting no credit to the students. So it either is learning or it isn’t learning. Why is it that one school allows the student to get engineering credit working at BAE, and other schools don’t recognize that?”

The problem, according to critics of the program, is that approval of credit will be out of the hands of the local school districts that are accountable for the quality of the high school diploma that is granted.

Edelblut says those fears are misplaced, because the decisions will be made by equally competent educators at the state Department of Education, based on a rigorous application process….

The coalition of education officials opposing the new program calls it a violation of local control, stating that, “Learn Everywhere breaches the authority of school boards and communities to determine the qualifications for credit-bearing courses and ignores the teacher credentialing process and school accreditation procedure that the state administers, trampling New Hampshire’s longstanding tradition of local control.”….

According to the Department of Education, activities that could become eligible for academic credit include “an aspiring actor, dancer, or musician performing in an arts program; a student receiving after-school math tutoring at the Boys and Girls Club; or a part-time internship at a local manufacturing company that leads to acquired skills.”….

Edelblut presented the initial rule proposal in December, followed by public hearings in February and March. The vote Thursday will be on the final rules.

If the State Board approves the rules Thursday, they’ll be sent to the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR) for review. If the BOE does not approve the rules, they’ll be sent back to the Department of Education.

Once submitted to JCLAR, the committee will consider the proposed rules at its next meeting. If opponents of the program fail to sway the vote on the Board of Education on Thursday, they can be expected to take their case to JLCAR as early as June 21.


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