Many of you have probably read or heard about NH Center for Public Policy Studies’ recently released report, Manchester’s Education Benchmarks. The goal of the report was to compile and present data on a range of issues impacting the Manchester Public Schools.
In the report we learn that Manchester students have grown poorer and more diverse, they miss too much school, and in the past nine years we have made little progress in improving their educational outcomes.
One of my activist friends is fond of quoting the African-American writer, James Baldwin, who said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
There is nothing in this report that surprised me.
Over the years I have read a lot of reports and delved deeply into available data regarding public education in Manchester. But for most people, the state of our public schools has been a black box that no one could see the inside of. We relied mostly on speculation and anecdotal information.
Now we have a set of scientifically gathered data in one place, put together by a dispassionate third party. The report gives us, at best, a bird’s eye view of our system. Now it is up to us to investigate why certain things seem to be out of order or not working properly. It also gives us a firm baseline to push off from. From this point forward we will be able to measure and see the progress we make.
This report is actually a prime example of a public private-partnership. By using their resources and expertise NHCPPS has made a significant contribution to our public education system and provided a vehicle by which the public can be engaged and informed.
Our school system plays an important part in the health and vigor of the city. We all have a vested interest in seeing good outcomes for students. They are the future workforce and our future civic leaders. We are all beginning to realize that the success of our young people rests on everyone’s shoulders.
For example, the NHCPPS report points out that the number of children in poor families is on the rise in Manchester. Introducing students to well-paid, satisfying careers and helping them get the necessary education and training for them is a perfect way for the business community to be involved with the schools.
Manchester has a long history as a working class city. Many children of millworkers have gone on to college and professional careers. Manchester is still one of the top 10 cities in the country for upward mobility.
Already several new initiatives have begun partnering schools and businesses to help students explore potential career pathways.
The STEAM Ahead program supports students who are interested in careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. In addition to support for classroom needs, the businesses will host student interns and cover the costs of college credit for dual enrollment classes.
One afternoon a month the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Educator Leadership program brings Manchester educators and local business people together to talk about how to prepare students for various jobs and careers. These introductions frequently lead to follow-up presentations in the classroom.
Former NH School Board Fred Bramante recently launched his 10,000 mentors program. He hopes to have 1,000 mentors in Manchester who are willing to be career mentors to students in the Manchester Schools. High School students would be able to receive credit through the Extended Learning Opportunities option offered in Manchester High Schools.
Unfortunately, the cost of higher education can be a significant barrier for children in low income families. In light of this, Manchester’s local colleges have stepped forward to help our students access college and post-secondary training programs. STEAM Ahead is a great example, but students are also able to acquire college credits through existing programs like Manchester Community College’s Running Start Program or through dual enrollment at Southern New Hampshire University. Earlier this year the NH Community College System reduced its tuition rate to $600 per 3-credit course and hopes to lower it even more in coming years.
On November 7 leaders from the local Higher Education Community will be coming together to review the Manchester’s Education Benchmarks report and to collaborate on a plan to help address the findings. Manchester’s local colleges: UNH-Manchester, Manchester Community College, SNHU, St. Anselm, Granite State College, NH Institute of Art, and Mass. College of Pharmacy, represent a tremendous untapped resource. These institutions could offer staff development and graduate degrees for teachers and administrators, provide tutors and health screeners for students, develop enrichment programs for students, and so much more.
This benchmark report provides a starting point to begin these important discussions. Similar collaborative efforts take place in other communities around the country and are very effective in addressing problems and forging paths to great community success. I am very excited about the energy that exists in the city right now and I am looking forward to seeing the great things that will come from the release of this report.
Kathy Staub is an At-large member of the Manchester Board of School Committee and mother of two grown children who graduated from Central High School.Manchester Ink Link welcomes your submissions for our Opinion section. Send them to Carol Robidoux at firstname.lastname@example.org