By Nathan Harris (LNH '18) - Senior VP of Sales & Marketing, ZOLL Medical
These are seemingly simple questions, but judging from our discussions & lectures, vastly complex answers.
We had the opportunity to look at several education revolutions. We reviewed different public education approaches – opening new charter schools, learning about competency-based education, hearing from our new Manchester superintendent. We reviewed a landmark NH funding battle, and got an inside-New England College perspective regarding the state of higher education. What a progressive day!
A warm thank you to the NH Institute of ART – circa 1860, the oldest and largest art institution in NH.
NHIA provided a wonderful metaphoric setting for our topic. Much like leadership, education evokes art.
Meryl Levin, Executive Director of Mill Falls, [LNH 13’] – Part 1 A Charter School Case Study
Meryl enthusiastically started our day with her wonderful story, creating the first public Montessori school in NH – Mill Falls. Mill Falls started with ten parents; located in Union Leader building, in 2012. It now has 168 kids. Roughly, 80% of the kids are from Manchester in which MF provides Special Ed services to 20% of its population. Mills Falls is pushing the “public” envelope to provide a child base environment. Why – because, people were looking for something more than what their neighborhood was providing. As it turns out, creating a charter school was one tool in parent’s toolbox for creating options for education. Meryl now says the work is daunting and it not something everyone should consider doing. Nevertheless, she did pose a critical question - “What are our obligations as citizens to invest in public schools?”
The Montessori school approach encourages active teaching, hands on, time management, collaboration, independent, mixed age classrooms – mentoring and modeling and small group lessons. There is a cost - the funding from the of NH for public charter schools…$7K per 1-12 kids/ $5k per kinders yet state says it's about $14k/kid to educate them; hence, lots of fund raising is needed because costs are higher than the state provides.
Becoming the first public Montessori school in NH is an achievement – if you want an in-depth look, check out the history, the charter and the model for Mill Falls on this site: http://millfalls.org/about-us/
Fred Bramante, President NCCBL, [LNH 99’] – Part 2 Rethinking the System: It is not about time, it’s about learning”
“Imagine if our systems of learning were designed to move our students through achievement and not through time.” – Off the Clock, Bramante, Colby. The point of this idea is that learning become the constants – time & place become the variable.
Fred retold the story of how Competency Based Education started in NH. He detailed the charge he received from Gov. Benson to “start with a clean sheet of paper and challenge everything.” Fast forward, New Hampshire is one of the leading states in the country with legislative empowerment concerning CBE. If you are interested in the back-story and a real-life example, check out the link to a story about Fred’s journey and SAU 9 in Conway…https://www.conwaydailysun.com/news/local/fred-bramante-the-father-of-competency-based-learning-likes-direction/article_e1e8f1e8-9d79-11e7-a5df-bbbb3882ee7e.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share
Someone asked the question, “Where is this happening in New Hampshire?” Other than SAU 9, another shining example is Pittsfield, http://www.pittsfieldnhschools.org/pmhs/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Competency-Based-Assessment-and-Reporting.pptx - this link is a real-time assessment PowerPoint that portrays the a-b-c of Pittsfield’s approach.
Although, we added the CBE concept in the state regulations in 2005 – creating an atmosphere of innovation and officially challenging Carnegie base system – it is not happening all over NH quickly. Some districts are slowly evolving. Take heed my fellow leaders of NH – behind us, there are now more than 40 states that are in conversation about a competency base model, does this = a national movement?
One final note on this topic, Fred mentioned John Shea’s talk. John provides several compelling reasons for change in his Ted-X talk - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkidCZMPdhI –the most compelling, “what do we want for our kids?”
Dr. Vargas – Mapping the K-12 Landscape in a Diverse Community.
Manchester school district is the largest in the state – it serves roughly 14,000 students. With this size & urban setting, it has diversity and disparity that Dr. Vargas must face. He has to grapple with economic, language, mental health, & safety issues.
You may have noticed the first leadership gauntlet Dr. Vargas launched our way, “Race, class and gender – if you are not dealing with race, class, and gender, then you are not a great leader.” Whoa…, definitive position.
One of Dr. Vargas’ hot button was tracking - Tracking – is the practice of grouping children together according to their talents in the classroom…there is an association with prestige, friends, and select groups. Tracking happens by design. Put a group somewhere and expect less of them – this started with race.
Our current practices are associate with lower expectations…for example.
Level one class – more likely to be poor – not expected to read during the summer, unlike an AP class student, expected to read throughout the summer – this translates to low expectations for level 1.
West High School won a grant to eliminate “leveling practices” – to help see the potential of each child. Giving kids a shot at becoming an educated person. Emerging challenges to educate the next group of citizens… community base leadership – is a viable blueprint
As leaders, we have a role – appreciate the gift and potential that each individual can bring.
…Issues like homeless kids in school, family engagement (complexity/diversity engagement)
Common thread is teachers. Public education is so extremely regulated – the system ties the teacher’s hands. How do leaders provide support for teachers?
Vargas spoke about “Unpacking the education issues/challenges”
- Majority of Latino students that graduate have never met a counselor. Why?
- What do we want to do for kids?
- Reinventing schools requires time; what kind of capacity is needed?
- Manchester has rich resources –how to connect with these resources with business, colleges, and community to re-imagine the experience of the children?
Dr. Vargas’s final declaration, “Leadership is about being positive, but do not leave the elephant in the room invisible.” EXPECTATION – highlights this definition!
Pause for the Cause…Congratulations to Gene, Zach and Jim!
- Gene – new job…at Plymouth State
- Jim – new 3 yr. contact with NH Medical Society
- Zach – new career- predicted modeling, data visualization – budding entrepreneur
Andru Volinsky Esq., [LNH 02’] – “The Funding Controversy- Who Pays and how much?”
News Flash - 90% education funding comes from local property tax – value of property matters …in NH for sure.
“Equalized valuation per pupil” - $939,000 avg. in NH tax/per pupil…hmmm
Andru provided a fascinating picture of how our school funding works or does not work for every district in NH. He brought his “staff” with him to help illustrate the situation. He detailed the trials and tribulations of legal wrangling between the Claremount Sch. Distr V. Governor that went on for 14 years.
Bottom line: The Supreme Court ruled - There is a constitutional right to fund adequate education in NH.
Inequalities in school funding lineage …
An early precedence - Rodriguez v. San Antonio schools, 411 U.S (1973)
- Available @ Schoolfunding.info – states that won or lost over school funding. (cool site)
During group discussions, we talked about how failure of economic development may have exasperated the situation…the current less prosperous towns used to be mill towns.
Other circumstances that play a role…
- Highest NH education expenditures is about $14k – big gap to median
- Charter schools funding at $3500
- Pending: Keno & Vouchers bill(s)…
Voucher SB 193 …same loss of local revenue as Charter school
- Transfer $3500 to 3rd party than parents apply for scholarship
- Religious institution issue
- Loss of local revenues to school
- Is $3500 enough to make a difference for families?
Andru’s final thoughts, “In NH – we cheat poor kids in poor communities….not seen as a problem.”
- We are not talking about this aspect…
…did I say wow!
Dr. Michele Perkins, President of New England College – The Landscape of Higher Education Today:
“Shifting Sands & White Waters”
Dr. Perkins reflectively outlined the current state of higher education, noting trends and demographics.
- Higher education in general…used to be a bastion of consistency, then it changed>>>
- Now, how do we create a culture of change in an institution that resists change?
- Challenges: Demographics, financial, political, regulatory (unintentioned consequences) public relations
- Demographics are real – shrinking pool – public school enrollment going down<<<
- Residential colleges, very few break even – healthcare, reg. reporting, safety & security, technology, health centers
Dr. Perkins shared NEC’s growth and success story along with their strategies for future success.
Strategies for Success
- Developed innovative graduate programs program, MBA healthcare, held onsite at hospitals
- Launched low-residency programs starting in 2003 (MFA, EdD)
- Offered online graduate programs starting in 2005
- Offered online undergraduate programs in 2010
- MS in CIS campus currently enrolls over 400
- Ambitious 5 year plan
- 12- month campus
- Integrating on-line courses in the traditional curriculum
- Developing sophisticated prospect identification systems
New England College will be the most highly respected and sought‐after small private college in New Hampshire, known for its innovative academic programs and as a leader in experiential education.