Public listening sessions are scheduled, but not publicly advertised by Department of Education or the State Board of Education; Public education advocates continue to call for stronger transparency and public process
CONCORD, NH – As New Hampshire’s State Board of Education reviews the 306 Administrative Rules, which set the minimum standards for public school approval, public education advocates have taken to spreading the word about public listening sessions in the absence of any publicly available information from the Department of Education and the State Board of Education.
In December, public education groups sent a letter to Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and the NH State Board of Education, which called on the NH Department of Education and the NH State Board of Education to halt the drafting process and have any revisions reflect the needs of communities across the state.
“Now that the Department of Education has finally announced public sessions, they still remain unadvertised, so it’s up to public education advocates to do the publicity ourselves,” said Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Organizer with Granite State Progress. “The current draft is tedious to digest, unorganized, and slashes a broad pen through equity language that is meant to address the needs of all students. It’s disturbing that not only have our calls to create an open, transparent process have gone unrecognized by the State Department of Education and State Board of Education, but they haven’t even published those public sessions anywhere.”
Granite State Progress recently hosted a public education webinar about the 306 Rules to help community members understand the critical role that the 306 Rules play in the success of our public schools. In addition to reaching out to local school officials, school board members, parents and students to encourage them to engage in the listening sessions, Granite State Progress created Facebook events for each of the listening sessions known to be happening in the next few weeks.
As of right now, it appears the State of New Hampshire has scheduled the following 306 Rules Listening Sessions:
Tuesday May 9th at 6:30 pm: Dover/Durham listening session at Oyster River High School
Wednesday May 10th at 6:30 pm: Bow/Dunbarton listening session at Bow High School
Thursday, May 11th at 6:30 pm: Keene Middle School
Monday, May 15th at 6:30 pm: Winnacunnet High School
Wednesday, May 24th at 6:30 pm: John Stark Regional High School
Additional listening sessions are scheduled for the following dates at 6:30 pm:
May 17 in Litchfield
May 22 in Hillsboro
May 25 in Kearsarge
May 30 in Goffstown
Background on 306 Rules
Q: What are NH’s 306 Rules?
A: In the State of New Hampshire, the 306 Administrative Rules establish the minimum standards for public school approval. Said simply, they are a set of requirements that all public schools must comply with, setting the foundation for each and every public school across our state. A student’s zip code should not dictate the quality of the education that student is provided. The minimum standards for public education exist to make sure that no matter what a student’s zip code is, they will receive consistent access to quality education. This foundation provides the basis for ensuring all students are offered an essential and common framework for learning and engagement within their public school community.
The rules include requirements for elements such as the nutritional quality of food served in the cafeteria, to required professional development educators must access, to class size and graduation requirements. The 306 Rules are incredibly important for New Hampshire’s public education system.
These rules are revisited and edited every ten years. The present iteration of that effort is due by the end of 2024.
Q: Who writes the 306 Rules?
A: The NH State Board of Education (SBOE) is responsible for adopting and enacting the ED 306 Administrative Rules. Every ten years the board, and the New Hampshire Education Department (NHED) initiate a review and revision process. The current process for revision has involved significant rewrite of the Ed 306 rules. On November 18, 2020, the Executive Council and SBOE awarded a sole source contract, without competitive bidding, to the National Center for Competency Based Learning (NCCBL) to lead and facilitate the current revision process.
Q: Where does the public fit in?
A: The current process underway has lacked transparency, with promises of public hearings and information sessions unfulfilled. This has meant key community members, including parents and students, have been locked out of a thorough public process. To date, classroom teachers have also had limited voice in the process.
In November of 2022, the NH Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (NHASCD) gathered 40 content-area expert teachers to review a draft of the 306s and that input is part of the current draft. Specific groups that have not been included in the process are students and their parents and guardians.
Q: Where is the process at this point?
A: An initial proposal of the 306 Rules was presented to the SBOE on March 8, 2023. The SBOE chose not to take up the rules because they hadn’t had the opportunity to read the rules before voting on them. After the SBOE votes to approve the initial proposal, they will hold a public hearing. After the public hearing, the SBOE has an opportunity to revise the proposal, taking into account the public comments, and must vote again to approve them. Following that vote, the rules will be sent to the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR), which will review the rules to ensure that they comply with state law. Once JLCAR approves the rules, they return to the SBOE for a final vote, and if approved, they become the administrative regulations for public school compliance in New Hampshire.
Q: Why does all of this matter?
A: A student’s geography should not dictate the quality of the education that student is provided. The minimum standards for public education exist to make sure that no matter where a student lives, they will receive consistent access to quality public education. Communities need to come together to decide what the minimum standards are that we will offer all New Hampshire’s students. There is a concerted effort at the DOE to push the process forward with little public input and transparency, despite the rule revisions not being due until 2024. There is still time to engage in community conversations for the 306 rule-making process, and such efforts have been routinely requested by public education advocates since last year.