The New Hampshire Department of Education and members of the state Board of Education are defending their right to approve alternative programs granting credit to high school students, despite objections from lawmakers and educators.
The state board voted on Thursday to approve a response from the Department of Education on its proposed program, Learn Everywhere, which would require high schools to grant students for extracurriculars outside of school.
The response comes a month after the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules issued a preliminary objection to Learn Everywhere. The committee maintains it undermined school districts' oversight of curriculum and credits, failed to institute protections and grievance policies for participating students, undermined New Hampshire’s system of credentialing teachers, and misinterpreted a law passed in 2017 giving the state board power to approve “alternative programs for granting credit leading to graduation.”
At Thursday's meeting, DOE attorney Richard Sala defended the department's interpretation of this law.
“The Department is giving effect to the plain meeting of every one of those words: Alternative programs for granting credit leading to graduation,” Sala said. “Those credits have to lead to graduation. That’s the Department’s position: In order to lead to graduation, they have to be applied somewhere.”
The DOE says much of the joint legislative committee's critique was based on a misunderstanding of how districts issue credits. In a letter, Commissioner Frank Edelblut wrote:
“Awarding credits is not part of a particular curriculum and, in fact, students may be granted credits without ever having experienced a district curriculum, through their demonstration of ‘mastery of graduation requirements.’”
Edelblut also defended Learn Everywhere from critics who say it allows uncredentialed teachers to offer classes for credit. He said thousands of students take classes in the Community College System, where professors don’t necessarily hold teaching credentials.
The DOE made minor changes to the proposed rules to respond to other concerns raised by the joint legislative committee about special education students and student protections.
Members of that committee will review the changes for possible approval in September.