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School Administrators, Parents, Others Discuss Education Rule Changes

CONCORD, NH — State and local education officials will hold 10 listening sessions in May, possibly more in June, to discuss the future of education in the Granite State.

The New Hampshire Department of Education is considering changes to Ed Rule 306 — the minimum standards for public school approval, which sets the standards for public education. Ed Rule 306 focuses on many different education topics, including competency, personalized learning, safety in school, assessments, requirements like instructional hours and days, and best practices.

Fred Bramante, the former chairman of the state board of education and founder and president of the National Center for Competency-Based Learning as well as the owner of Daddy’s Junky Music Stores, was asked in 2021 to lead a team of professionals and educators to develop a plan to revise the education rules. Many changes are simple revisions adapted for modern times; some are more complex. The changes are listed in a 139-page side-by-side brief.

Bramante, a former teacher himself, said, after the initial 10 meetings, he planned on holding more in June and possibly through the summer into September, saying, “This is asking a lot … I’m not a kid anymore. But to me, it’s worth it.”

The process will be a six-month analysis of the changes, and then, the state board will vote on the changes.

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Bramante called some of the revisions “really substantive,” which, he hoped, would “change the direction of how we are moving our education system.” In New Hampshire, he said, more parents and students should — and are going to have a more critical role than ever in the education of students.

“The opportunity for customized education, for every kid, exists in this new system,” he said. “Students will be able to truly take advantage of the opportunity afforded to them in these new rules.”

One of the most significant changes that school systems have not taken advantage of was the 990-hour education rule.

Students are required to attend classes for 180 days in New Hampshire, which amounts to five and a half hours per day. But they are not getting credit for time learned outside those 180 days. When the rule was changed, “most school leaders translated that to, ‘Well, we’ll just do the same calendar,’” instead of adding flexibility. The new sentence added to that rule states: “which shall identify the total instructional hours offered, and recognize that students advance upon demonstrated acknowledgment of competencies, not based on seat time, pursuant to Ed 306.27(h):”

Bramante said, “The intention was to create a different calendar,” adding, “the notion that school snow days still exist is unbelievable to me … the hours are hours that the schools have to offer instruction not the hours the kids have to be in seats. We’re not focusing on time … we don’t care how these kids learn — in a classroom, online … all we can demonstrate that they have actually learned (the subject matter).”

Bramante said he realized many of the changes were “messing with the system,” but the conclusions were no different than were discussed in the state nearly two decades ago when he was the state board chairman. This led to the creation of public charter schools and competency-based learning, to ensure educational outcomes for all and keep students from falling through the cracks. Expanded career technical education and concepts like work-based learning have also opened many student opportunities.

Bramante said some administrators have been “really aggressive” in taking advantage of education flexibility while others have been stagnant. He said students should not be hampered by the zip code they live in, adding there were learning environments for every Granite State student in all communities and online.

Listening sessions begin on Tuesday and run through the end of May.

Announced listening sessions are scheduled as follows:

  • Tuesday, May 9: 6:30 p.m. at Oyster River High School, 55 Coe Drive in Durham.
  • Wednesday, May 10: 6:30 p.m. at Bow High School, 55 Falcon Way in Bow.
  • Thursday, May 11: 6:30 p.m. at Keene Middle School, 167 Maple Ave. in Keene.
  • Monday, May 15: 6:30 p.m. at Winnacunnet High School, 1 Alumni Drive in Hampton.
  • Wednesday, May 17: 6:30 p.m. at Campbell High School, 1 Highland Court in Litchfield.
  • Monday, May 22: 6:30 p.m. at Hillsboro-Deering High School, 12 Hillcat Drive in Hillsboro.
  • Wednesday, May 24: 6:30 p.m. at John Stark Regional High School, 618 North Stark Highway in Weare.
  • Thursday, May 25: 6:30 p.m. at the Kearsarge Professional Development Center, 165 Main St. in New London.
  • Tuesday, May 30: 6:30 p.m. at Goffstown High School, 11 School St. in Goffstown.

Source: Patch