Education

The Hechinger Report

Here at State of Democracy, we love a good graphic. Maps, charts, tables -- any illustration that displays lots of data in a clear, informative manner earns a gold star from us. Here's one recent example that caught our eye: a map showing the graduation rate for nearly every school district in the United States in 2013.

Courtesy: Mel Pepin

Meet Declan Alexander Rourke, an AT/RT cancer survivor.

Soon he’s visiting Disneyland, and is super pumped about a Star Wars attraction, where he will get to fight Darth Maul.

“I am not sure if Maul is going to have a single bladed light-saber, or a double, because in the Clone Wars, he has a single… Episode One… double,” he effuses, slapping his hand on the table for emphasis.

Two proposed changes to the the state's education funding formula have been passed by the two chambers of the New Hampshire Legislature. Both seek to increase or lift altogether the state's cap on growth in per-pupil spending. And both would pay for such it by reducing so-called "stabilization grants," created in 2011 to keep certain school districts from losing huge amounts of funding after the last round of changes to the base aid formula.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR; Data: SAUs 28, 30 & 62; Legislative Budget Assistant
Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

With lawmakers now in the final phase of crafting the state budget for the next two years, schools around the state are watching the process uneasily. The Legislature is looking, once again, to tweak the formula it uses to send money to local districts. 

Michael Brindley for NHPR

The state’s two largest school districts – Manchester and Nashua – have a lot in common.

Both have high poverty and a diverse student population. And there’s a controversial educational practice they also share – leveling or, as it’s also called, tracking.

That’s when students are separated into different classes based on their past performance.

biblioholic / Flicker CC

The two biggest school districts in the state have not met the federal benchmarks set for participation in a controversial state-wide standardized test, known as the Smarter Balanced.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Kindergarten is a year of transition. Kids are learning how to listen, follow directions, sit still... but while they are making that transition, there’s a lot of mandatory wiggling.

In Mr. Woody’s morning kindergarten class, in Plainfield, a class of students blows off some steam while doing a “wiggle dance.” A stereo plays a children’s song that Mr. Woody sings along to, and the kids giggle and flail.

Sara Plourde | Data: NH Dept. of Education, NH School Administrators Association

The number of New Hampshire public school districts offering full day kindergarten has been on the rise since 1999, when there were fewer than a dozen.
 

Plymouth State University

 

Donald Birx, the chancellor of Pennsylvania State University's Behrend College, has been chosen to be the next president at Plymouth State University.

Birx will become the university's 15th president on July 31. The University System Board of Trustees voted unanimously to support him after a nationwide search.

At Penn State Behrend, Birx was responsible for the quality of the college's academic programs in teaching, research and service, and its overall operations.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr Creative Commons

University of New Hampshire School of Law

A decade after its inception, a program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law is being looked at as a national model as an alternative way to prepare new lawyers for the field.

The Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program was created in 2005.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

While in the Manchester school district, hundreds of parents are pulling their children out of the state’s new standardized test, the Smarter Balanced, four districts are trying something new. The Rochester, Sanborn, and Epping school districts along with Souhegan high school have recently received permission to design and implement their own assessments.

Think back to the standardized tests you did when you were in high school. Did you ever get a math question like this?

Like in New Hampshire, states across the country are rolling out new assessments this spring aligned with the Common Core.

But whether parents have the right opt out of those tests can vary state by state.

A study released earlier this month found that while some states have clear guidelines on whether children are required to participate, other states’ policies are still evolving.

Julie Rowland is a researcher for the Education Commission of the States.

Last week, New Hampshire's third through eighth graders and one high school grade began taking a new standardized test: the Smarter Balanced.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The New Hampshire House Finance Committee voted along party lines Monday to eliminate the cap on education aid as well as reduce funding for the state's stabilization grants by 40 percent in effort to trim $46 million from the state's budget. 

Under this proposal, districts with growing enrollments would see more money meanwhile shrinking districts would receive less.

Karen Umberger, a Republican from Kearsarge, says with enrollment dropping in many school districts these cuts are needed.

 

Three New Hampshire schools are taking part in a regional partnership to develop personalized learning experiences.

The Great Bay Charter School, the Pittsfield Middle and High School and the Manchester School of Technology are among 20 New England schools taking part in the initiative coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership and New England Secondary Schools Consortium.

Many schools across New Hampshire this week are administering the new Smarter Balanced exam for the first time.

This is the first week of a 12-week testing window for schools to give the assessment.

The rollout hasn’t gone completely as planned, after some students were accidentally given a practice version of the exam.

Officials at three Manchester schools said some students will have to retake the test.

Heather Gage is director of educational improvement for the state Department of Education.

Via Central High School Community on Facebook

Students attending at least three New Hampshire Schools took the wrong version of the new Smarter Balanced standardized test, due to a labeling error in the vendor’s software.

On Monday, students at three Manchester schools – Central High School, Beech Street School, and McDonough Elementary School – gave a practice test instead of the real thing. The tests administered were for the proper grade level.

NYC Department of Technology / Flicker CC

Schools in New Hampshire started to administer a brand new standardized test Monday.

Ever since 2005, students all over New England have taken a standardized-test called the NECAP in 3rd through 8th grade and once more in high school, but this year the pencil-and-paper NECAP was replaced with an online test, the Smarter Balanced.

The Smarter Balanced is “adaptive,” meaning the questions get harder or easier depending on which questions the student gets correct.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Charter school advocates are hopeful this could be the year the legislature passes a bill aimed at increasing their funding.

Dozens of charter school students packed the halls of the New Hampshire State House, Wednesday, to push for a bill that would increase state funding for charters by more than $2 million dollars per year.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Every community has an issue which an outsider might look at and say, ‘That? You’re fighting about that?’

In Gilmanton, that’s the Year-Round Library.

The library is a private non-profit, but is open to the public. It’s in a gorgeous refurbished timber-frame barn; two stories tall with old rough-hewn beams surrounded by a modern shell. It was built through private fundraising, and fundraising helps pay operating costs too.  

Tracy Lee Carroll, NHPR

For the second straight year, voters at Town Meeting in Hooksett will be asked to approve a 10-year contract allowing some students to attend Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

Voters rejected a proposal last March that would have required at least 75 students to attend Pinkerton in the first five years, and 90 percent of all students attending after that.

Hooksett officials are hoping this deal has a better chance Tuesday, with some of those minimums removed.

usdagov via Flickr CC

New Hampshire students will take a new standardized test this spring, called the Smarter Balanced. Early indications are the test will be substantially more difficult, and school teachers and administrators are anxious, and some – like Manchester – have been looking for an out, only to find there is not much wiggle room.

Courtesy of SNHU

  Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc will spend three months at the U.S. Department of Education to help grow non-traditional higher ed programs. 

In an effort to increase access and affordability for students, the U.S. Department of Education will begin selecting universities as so-called experimental sites.

LeBlanc says experimental sites will act as centers of research and development for new models of higher ed. And he says he won’t be part of the selection process.

Jim Graham / Flicker CC

The headline of this year’s graduation report from the National Student Clearinghouse is that 78 percent of students who start out in traditional 4-year public institutions in New Hampshire wind up graduating within six years.

That’s higher than any state in the country except for Iowa.

Private schools do nearly as well, with 75 percent graduating.

Melanie Holtsman / Flickr CC

  The Manchester School Board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee has approved a measure letting parents pull their child from taking tests linked to the Common Core standards.

The proposal includes a mail campaign to inform parents of this option. The letters would state that there would be no penalties if they choose to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test. And parents would need to notify the child’s principal of the decision in writing.

courtesy University of New Hampshire

  The Governor’s budget proposal would fund the University System of New Hampshire with an additional thirteen million dollars which just a portion of the money the university system is asking for.

The system has stated that amount would be insufficient to maintain a freeze on in-state tuition, but they are waiting until the budget is finalized before setting rates.

Pamela Diamantis, the chair of the university system board of trustees, joined Morning Edition.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr Creative Commons

Morning Edition speaks with two experts on changes to the child restraint law this month. Scroll down to see our more recent conversation with disability rights advocate Mike Skibbie.

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2/10/15

Some New Hampshire school officials are raising concerns about a newly revised state law meant to limit the use of restraint and seclusion on students.

Courtesy The University Of New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston used his annual state of the university speech largely as a pitch for additional state funding.

In his address, Huddleston reiterated his pledge to again freeze tuition if the state boosts its funding, saying “in fact all it will take is for our lawmakers to return funding to 2009 levels. How heavy of a lift can that be?”

That would be an increase of almost $40 million dollars over two years.  In her budget, Governor Maggie Hassan proposed a more modest, $13 million dollar increase.

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