For Immediate Release
Posted: April 15, 2024


Kim Houghton, Communications Administrator
(603) 513-3030 |

We have high aspirations for our children

This op-ed was written by Commissioner Frank Edelblut and originally published in The New Hampshire Union Leader on April 15, 2024.

THE Department of Education, along with the State Board of Education, has been working on the education rules that address “how” we educate students in New Hampshire, with the singular focus of raising the bar for all students. Often referred to as the ED306 rules, they prescribe the framework for how schools deliver education and are required to be reviewed every 10 years.

The work to revise these rules has been ongoing for three years. It is the most expansive effort of any rulemaking that has ever occurred. That may seem overkill for a set of rules that most people have never heard of, but they are important to the future and well-being of our students.

From the beginning, the work has had high aspirations and a broad outreach. A group of individuals was assembled that included representatives from the New Hampshire School Boards Association, the New Hampshire School Administrators Association (NHSAA), the New Hampshire Association of School Principals, the New Hampshire National Education Association (NEA), as well as esteemed business and higher education leaders. This group was led by Fred Bramante, who served on the New Hampshire State Board of Education from 1992-1994 and again in 2003-2013, having been appointed by both Republican and Democrat governors.

This work included convenings across the state with 13 public listening sessions and numerous feedback sessions from hundreds of educators. The Education Department and the chair of the State Board of Education met with the working group, NEA and NHSAA leadership to work through the language of the proposal. In addition, the State Board of Education has held three public hearings to allow additional input. Normally, a rule proposal would have just one public hearing.

With each engagement, the rules continue to improve. That does not mean that there is agreement on every aspect, but there is universal agreement that we implement rules that embody high aspirations for our students.

The changes in the proposal fall into three primary categories.

Sections of the rules were reorganized to make them clearer and easier for schools to work with. For example, in the previous rule many, but not all, requirements for local school board policies were included in section 360.04. In the new proposal, all local school board policy requirements have been consolidated into one place. In the previous rule, building facility and janitorial services were listed in two separate sections. These overlapping rules have been consolidated into one section under school facilities.

The second category of change is focused on students and student learning.

For many years, New Hampshire has embraced the belief that time is not a good proxy for learning. It does not serve students well to simply pass them through the school system for 12 years if they do not acquire the knowledge and skills we aspire for them. It is not a good sign that New Hampshire has a graduation rate of more than 90%, but less than 50% of students test proficient at grade level in high school. A few proposed changes in this area have generated feedback worth mentioning. Section 306.12 now states that local school boards are responsible to hire licensed educators to “facilitate learning” rather than simply “teach classes.” In the same rule section, local school boards are now required to have licensed reading and library specialists to manage “learning resources” versus “instructional resources.”

These types of changes are important since they shift the focus to the ultimate objective -- learning. This does not take away from the important work of teaching and instruction, but rather acknowledges that those are not the only way that our students are learning the essential knowledge and skills needed for success.

The final category of change, and one that has engendered surprisingly little pushback, is graduation expectations. Interestingly, while the initial proposal includes these areas as “expectations,” feedback so far has been to make these “requirements.”

This list of expectations is a compilation of input from educators with years of experience, including in leadership roles, and written in language that is accessible to those who are not well versed in education vernacular. These expectations -- or requirements, depending on how the process plays out -- spell out the minimum aspirations we have for high school graduates.

The goal of these ED306 changes is to raise the education bar for our children. It is not fair to taxpayers and it is not good for students if they do not graduate prepared to be productive and engaged citizens. Or, as New Hampshire's constitution states, “Knowledge and learning, generally diffused through a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government.”


Frank Edelblut is commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education. He lives in Wilton.