SWANZEY CENTER — The N.H. Board of Education approved minimum standards for schools Thursday that completed the state’s shift toward competency-based education, maintained family and consumer science courses and recommended high schoolers take four years of math.
The board periodically updates the state’s standards, which outline what public schools must offer to be approved by the state.
This process started last year and included a public hearing and public comment time earlier this fall. At a meeting at Monadnock Regional Middle/High School Thursday, board members unanimously approved the proposal, which now heads to a joint legislative committee. The board will then adopt the standards in January.
Competency-based education is a concept New Hampshire has been moving toward for several years. The idea is that students must display mastery of specific content areas and skills to pass a class. Strong performance in one concept won’t make up for a lack of understanding in another.
School boards have the power to develop competencies at the district level, as long as they meet the broad requirements laid out in the standards.
Aside from defining the competency system, board of education members had considered requiring high school students to complete four years of math instead of three.
Instead, they only recommended that high school students complete four years of math.
And since the number of math courses wasn’t increased, the board was able to maintain a requirement that all high schools offer family and consumer sciences courses, such as food preparation or early childhood development. Those courses were in danger of being made optional for high schools.
In addition, the board added language to ensure career and technical education courses make modifications if necessary so students with disabilities are not barred from participating in them.
The board also put in a provision that requires parental notification before students are treated by a school psychologist. Schools are not required to hire a psychologist, but if they do employ one, they must follow the state’s guidelines.
The parental notification piece was a sticking point for certain state groups that represent parents, such as New Hampshire Families for Education.
Prior to the meeting, Monadnock Regional School District staff members and administrators described a handful of programs and successful projects to state board members, including a $25,000 reading grant awarded to Cutler School last year, renovations and upgrades to school facilities and the district’s new teacher evaluation system.
Director of Student Support Services Troy Kennett and teacher John Samperisi also spoke about the district’s new SMART program, which is a dropout prevention program. Twelve students attend the program, where the day is divided between traditional academics and vocational programs off-site. The classes are self-paced and individual, so students can focus only on what they need to earn a high school diploma.
To read the minimum standards, go to www.education.nh.gov/legislation/ed306review.htm