Edelblut comes to School Board for minimum school standards discussion

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Fred Edelblut. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Monday night, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) held a discussion with New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Frank Edelblut centered around concerns over proposed changes to the state’s minimum standards for public school approval, also known as the “Ed 306 Rules.”

Recently, Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais hoped that Edelblut could come before the BOSC to address their concerns as several BOSC members later went to a New Hampshire Board of Education (BOE) meeting to voice their concerns about the proposed 306 changes to date.

Edelblut emphasized that the process around the proposed changes has not concluded, with a public workshop meeting of the BOE expected to work through three years of various public comment sessions, feedback from over 200 educators, several educational organizations and other methods of feedback.

He also sought to emphasize that the goal of the proposed amendments, with a review required approximately every ten years, is to create statewide standards that recognize students learn differently throughout the state and different school districts may have different approaches to meet their obligations to educate students.

BOSC Members were universally grateful to Edelblut for taking the time to discuss the 306 changes and other related topics such as New Hampshire’s constitutional obligation to provide an adequate education for every child. Ward 4 BOSC Member Leslie Want said that his visit was the first ever by an Education Commissioner during her tenure. However, that did not mean he did not face criticism.

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Jason Bonilla (left) and Leslie Want. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

Some of the sharpest criticism came from Want, who felt that the DOE abrogated its responsibility to set standards and let the legislature take over, something she felt was inappropriate and would lead to irresponsible school districts damaging the educational outcomes of children given the philosophies of some state lawmakers and local school boards. She also shared concerns with other members of the board with instances where the word “shall” was replaced with “may” in the proposed amendments, insinuating that some districts may no longer offer things like arts or music programs if they no longer feel like doing so.

“There are (school) boards in this state that will decide that the local taxpayer will win and the students will lose,” said Want.

She also asked Edelblut why the DOE could not define what exactly is needed to achieve an adequate education, with Edelblut stating that it not within his statutory powers to do so and he would likely have to testify to future judicial hearings regarding the ConVal Case.

Others asked Edelblut regarding ConVal, and he repeatedly indicated he could not elaborate further due the ongoing nature of that case, but said that the proposed standard changes are geared toward including a more competency-based approach. BOSC Members also praised Edelblut on his support toward a shift for competence-based standards, where a student has to show the have a full understanding of real-world applications for the subject being taught.

There were also concerns over the lack of a maximum class size, with Edelblut stating that the focus should be on teacher to student ratios but that no school would likely have 100 kids in a classroom even if it met the appropriate ratios and that no one could provide scientific reasoning as to why a certain number of students in a class is optimal in every school district.

Ward 5 BOSC Member Jason Bonilla expressed frustration with a lack of language around equity, stating that minority students are not owed success based on the color of their skin, but that they may need additional support to achieve their educational goals due to things like limited knowledge of the English language on the part of refugees or families that speak a primary language other than English.

Edelblut responded that the standards in 306 should focus solely on achievement data, with more help given toward students  who are struggling regardless of their race, creed, gender identity or other classifying features.

Edelblut also replied from challenge by BOSC Vice Chair Jim O’Connell stating that he become a better champion for public school children.



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About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.