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Another View -- Scott Sargrad: Plans in the works to improve NH schools

September 24. 2017 9:47PM

As New Hampshire teachers begin to assign homework to students, state education officials are also facing an important deadline: New Hampshire is finalizing efforts to reshape the state’s education system under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Since ESSA’s passage, states have been working to create new “accountability plans” that detail how states will identify and support struggling schools and districts, and help students make progress toward demanding learning standards.

State education agencies are much more than one plan, but states have an important opportunity to lay out their vision for educating all students. And it starts with their plan for how they will hold schools and districts accountable, and how they will use that system to drive student learning. In fact, none of this improvement happens if states simply create ESSA plans that check boxes they believe the U.S. Department of Education is looking for.

New Hampshire assembled a task force to develop the state’s plan, and gathered input from department officials, state legislators and community members from public hearings. New Hampshire has joined 33 others in submitting plans for federal review, doing so before the Sept. 18 deadline.

Fortunately, waiting until the September deadline to submit its plan puts New Hampshire at an advantage. The state had the benefit of being able to review best practices in the 17 state plans submitted earlier this year.

Back in May, I had the opportunity to join more than 30 other bipartisan national education policy experts in reviewing the initial submitted plans. Our goal was to highlight the best practices among the plans and identify how states can improve weaknesses. We identified promising ideas in areas like goals, standards and assessments, academic progress, identifying and supporting schools and continuous improvement.

Recently, we shared these findings with New Hampshire’s education leaders so that they could review best practices while finalizing the state’s education plan. These recommendations are available at

ESSA provides a great opportunity for states to improve not only how they hold schools and districts accountable for success, but also improve their whole education system for all students. States should make sure they focus on supporting schools, not just measuring and labeling them. And they should consider strategies to modernize and elevate the teaching profession as part of their new vision. In doing so, schools will improve and students will succeed.

I urge everyone who has a stake in New Hampshire’s education system to encourage state education officials to review and implement the best practices and push for a plan that leads to a better education for all children.

Scott Sargrad is the managing director of the K-12 Education Policy team at the Center for American Progress, based in Washington, D.C.

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