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Frequently Asked Questions


Are competencies only required because of Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO)?

No, the rule on requiring competencies by the school year 2008 2009 stands separate from the rule regarding extended learning opportunities. Although competencies first were brought forward for consideration in the rule making process as a means to assess student work completed outside the traditional classroom, it has become increasingly clear that competency assessment at the course level is core to how we can improve secondary education here in New Hampshire. The competencies requirement establishes performance, not time, as the standard for student success, attainment of credit, and thus eventual high school graduation. No longer is "seat time" good enough, now educators are asked to define sufficiency in terms of a student's mastery of identified standards.

Are high schools required to offer personalized learning plans for all students?

No, the state standards speak to guiding principles of well crafted curriculum, where the curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students, utilizing the resources available to the school and district for that purpose. Recently, the Commissioner requested information regarding how schools and districts are personalizing education for students. A personalized plan is not a requirement of the current school approval standards, however.

Can a high school student take a course at the Middle School or Junior High that has been approved for High School credit?

This issue should be addressed through local district policy, with the understanding that any local policy should ensure the equity of the course standard between middle and high school, as explained in FAQs above. (See: 306.26 (f) (g) Kindergarten-Grade 8 School Curriculum)

Can a lesser level of Mathematics, such as Pre-Algebra be used for a High School Mathematics credit, e.g. Algebra I (i.e., using coursework as extended learning opportunities in middle school per 306.26 (f) (g) Kindergarten - Grade 8 School Curriculum)?

For a course to be counted for High School credit, the local school board should assure that the High School credit standard will be/has been met in the pre-High School course. Courses of a lesser level are unlikely to meet the High School standard, for example Pre-Algebra taken in the 7th grade is not likely to meet the High School Algebra I standard. ELO standards also require that the ELO be pre-approved and pre-planned in order for credit toward graduation to be granted. In addition, assessments must be completed against the course-level competencies of the High School course for which the ELO is requesting credit.

Can a school offer extended learning opportunities for competencies beyond the High School level?

The rules are silent on this issue, primarily because the State Board of Education does not govern standards beyond K-12 education. Extended learning opportunities at the college level and beyond High School are encouraged, for high school credit or otherwise, in order to increase the rigor of opportunities. For instance, dual enrollment courses are current practice in many NH high schools.

Can an extended learning opportunity taken at the college level with non-comparable curriculum (e.g., High School 12th Grade English Language Arts vs. a college level course on John Irving) be considered "comparable" for the purposes of this section?

There is nothing in this rule that prevents accepting college credit to meet high school credit requirements, to the contrary, it is encouraged. The local school/district retains the authority to determine if the learning opportunity meets the requirements of the course for which it is substituting. It may determine that the learning opportunity meets "all" or "some" of the requirements of the course. Well-written course-level competencies are invaluable in delineating both the content and the process requirements of the course (as in numeracy skill and ability to work on a team).

Can you require in your local policy the grade level and certification level of the faculty member who approves and assesses an ELO?

Yes.

Could a local policy only allow ELO in, for example, a Mathematics, World Languages, or Technology course, (or any other course) solely, and not include all or other courses?

Yes, the policy may indicate that it is for the purposes of addressing certain parts of the curriculum and not others. This is a local decision.

Could a student apply for multiple years of credit, for example: ELA grades 9, 10, 11, and 12, with a single demonstration of competency?

This is determined by local School Board policy. However, the department recognizes that learning is contingent on developmental capacity. Recent research shows that increasing the number of ways and opportunities that students have to demonstrate learning contributes to the learning process itself. Multiple demonstrations over time and the use of multiple forms of demonstration are usually preferable to a single demonstration of competency.

Does a distance learning course have to be a course offered by the High School in order to receive High School credit?

If the High School lists the course as an offering, it can be offered for credit. The academic standard is the key. Distance Learning courses must be at least High School level in rigor and academic standards.

Does extended learning accomplished in a home schooling plan meet the requirement for High School credit if and when a student enrolls in a High School?

Only if the criteria of Ed 306.26(f)(2)(c) and (e) is met.

For the Phys Ed credit, if Athletics can be used for this credit via the ELO standard, does that include private athletics? What about grading and GPA's because with community and private teachers doing the grading there will be wide differences in grading.

This is an assessment of performance issue; the school-based teacher of record is the one who assesses and assigns the grade/credit no matter where the competencies are learned.

For the Phys Ed credit, if Athletics can be used for this credit via the ELO standard, does that include private athletics? What about grading and GPA's because with community and private teachers doing the grading there will be wide differences in grading.

This is an assessment of performance issue; the school-based teacher of record is the one who assesses and assigns the grade/credit no matter where the competencies are learned.

If a school develops competencies for a course, such as English, can this rule (credit by demonstration of competency) be applied immediately?

Yes, extended learning opportunities as an option are in effect upon the passage of these rules (July 1, 2006). However, local board policies regarding their implementation should be put into place prior to their use.

If the local board allows co-curricular athletics for PE credit, what effect does that have on districts that have to "pay to play"?

The rule states that ELO options offered by a local school board/district/school have to be available to all students. The wording of the district policies needs to be precise and clear. For instance, a policy could state that 'pre-approved team sports beyond the school's athletic program may be approved for ELO Physical Education learning' in which case, a students' family could seek out community team sports of no or low cost in place of the "pay to play" sport opportunities.

Is there a common format for competencies expected by the State?

No, format for competencies is a local decision. However, certain elements are strongly recommended. It is important to think of "competencies" not just as statements of standards aligned to high school course expectations, but more as a system of standards and appropriate assessments by which student mastery can be measured. For this reason we recommend the following elements be included:

  • Essential Questions or Big Ideas of the Course (what do you expect the student to take away from the course and have learned and retained over time?"
  • Competency Standard Statements (These are the concepts, content knowledge, and skills expected to be learned from the course) At this time, some schools are developing 4-7 Competency Standard Statements per course that are more conceptual in nature and others are developing many more per course that are closer to individual content or skill proficiencies. Others, such as CACES, have developed a design with a conceptual competency standard statement with content knowledge and skills contained within that standard listed below where both pieces together represent the competency standard statement.
  • Specific reference to NH Curriculum Framework and Grade Span Expectations on which the competency is based.
  • A statement by which a student will know what is expected of them, e.g. a sample performance task or a list of method(s) by which a student can demonstrate mastery of the competencies (this can be given as sample performance task(s), a test, a presentation, or any number of other means by which a student can be expected to show that they have mastered the competencies).
  • Rubric for Assessment (How will you know whether the student has demonstrated mastery? How much is good enough? What is your definition of a sufficient demonstration of mastery for a given competency standard statement?)

How will college and university admissions offices view the implementation of these types of learning experiences if they replace the learning experiences and skill set development found in any of the core courses typically valued by colleges/universities?

Many safeguards were written into the Minimum Standards for School Approval to ensure that approved extended learning opportunities would result in rigorous learning to a high standard. Some of these statements from the Minimum Standards and from DOE technical advisories explain that:

1. State standards specify that ELO may provide credit or supplement regular academic courses
2. ELOs should promote the schools and individual students' educational goals and objectives
3. State standards require that local boards provide for the administration and supervision of the ELO program
4. State standards encourage that certified school personnel oversee an individual student's program
5. State standards require that each extended learning proposal meet rigorous standards, and be approved by the school prior to its beginning
6. State standards specify that credits can be granted for extended learning activities, including, but not limited to, independent study, private instruction, team sports, performing groups, internships, community service, and work study
7. State standards require that granting of credits shall be based on a student's demonstration of competencies, as approved by certified educators
8. State standards require that ELO provide opportunities for students to acquire knowledge and skill development comparable to knowledge and skill development in courses offered at the high school
9. State standards require that if a district decides to offer ELO, such opportunities will be available to all students

What are the standards for demonstration of competencies?

The same standards should be used as those required to pass the class as designed - the standards should be the same for in-class and for an Extended Learning Opportunity.

What does "demonstrating mastery" mean vs. demonstration of a competency? Is mastery the highest level of understanding or is it a required level of understanding such as 'reading at the 10th grade level'?

The term "mastery," as it is used in the standards, indicates that a student has presented sufficient evidence of attainment of the required competencies. Sufficiency of evidence is determined at the local level.

What is meant by the "required competencies"?

These are the course requirements as defined at the local level. The term: "Course Level "Competencies" means the expected content, concepts, and skills to be mastered in a course. These may also be considered the "enduring understandings" that a teacher expects each student to retain from the course.

What is the decision on substituting athletics for PE?

It is allowed depending on the policy decisions of the local board.

What is the relationship of high school course competencies to the NH Curriculum Frameworks and GSEs?

The intent of Ed 306.27(b) and (d) is to allow students to demonstrate their competence in understanding and applying concepts, content standards and processes in multiple ways. The development of model or common assessments that match rubric requirements (proficiency statements) that all faculty agree upon as the standard for what is 'good enough' is the core work of this rule, more difficult than merely establishing end of course or concept mastery competency standard statements.

When having the conversations around what is 'good enough', educators need to first make sure they are familiar with and their curriculum is aligned to the revised NH Curriculum Frameworks. These frameworks, and the concepts and skills stated within, were developed using the previous NH Frameworks, the national standards in each subject area, and the best research and synthesis of the professional education organizations in each area.

The Grade Span Expectations (GSEs) in English/Language Arts and Mathematics are organized by major content areas and curricular foci of the high school years. Using the bolded 'stems' as a place to start should help teachers organize the "big ideas" of their course and grade level requirements. The science and social studies frameworks are organized a bit differently because they do not have the same grade by grade assessment requirements in NCLB. However, all four content areas have very clearly organized the concepts and skills, content and processes that students need to master in order to be successful in our ever-changing world.

When developing course-level competencies, one or more methods of assessment should be identified as ways a student might "demonstrate mastery of the competency:" (e.g., oral presentation, portfolio, term paper, test questions). This serves as immediate feedback to the competency developers regarding how readily the written competency standard statements can be assessed and helps to guide classroom practice.

If high schools align their curricula to the frameworks; Provide a focus on depth of knowledge associated with the content standards; define different pathways for students to achieve competence; develop rubrics and assessments that describe what competency looks like; and then decide what's good enough, they will have not only met the requirement of the intent of the rule, but will have multiple ways for students to demonstrate that they are 'college ready' and 'work ready.'

Would extended learning opportunities be available for homeschoolers?

According to the rules, ELO would have to be approved by the school prior to beginning of the experience and have the oversight of certified personnel.

Would the "demonstration of proficiency" in Information & Communication Technologies be locally defined?

Ed 306.27(n) offers further guidance, also, see Technical Advisory #2 Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol.

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New Hampshire Department of Education
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