March | April 2017



New Hampshire Explores Competency-Based Education

In order to more clearly define what students must know to graduate, the New Hampshire state Board of Education is moving toward competency-based education, the Concord Monitor reported. Competency-based education takes the focus off of time in the classroom and places more weight on specific knowledge of subjects.
A committee comprised of state education associations has been working since November to update the Department of Education’s minimum standards requirement. A shift to competency-based education is one of the elements recommended by the committee in its proposal the Board of Education voted to initially adopt in May.
Before it can be officially adopted, the proposal must go through several hearings and gain approval from legislative oversight committees later this year. If adopted, credits toward graduation will be eliminated. The objective will be to make it more clear what knowledge students have while giving them a choice on how to obtain that knowledge. Instead of requiring a certain number of courses in one subject, students would be asked to prove competency in specific areas within each subject.
Many of the state’s schools adopted competency-based ideas several years ago, according to the Concord Monitor. At Concord and Merrimack Valley high schools, for instance, students received credit for a course only after passing all competencies. If they fail one competency, students don’t receive credit even if their average grade is passing.
“It’s the right work,” Concord Superintendent Chris Rath told the Concord Monitor. “The clearer we can be with kids about what it is we want them to learn and be able to know and do, the better the results.”

Connecticut lawmakers reached a bipartisan agreement in May to strengthen oversight of higher education spending, The Connecticut Mirror reported. Under the proposal, unanimously passed by the state Senate, college officials would be required to come before legislators to discuss their budgets by Feb. 14, 2014. They also would be required to hold a budget hearing in 2015. The proposal is in response to legislative concerns about tuition inflation and administrative spending among the state’s institutions.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in May signed into law a gas tax increase expected to generate $1.2 billion over the next six years, according to The Baltimore Sun. The first of at least four increases is a 4 cents per gallon hike that takes effect in July. The state announced a series of road, bridge and transit projects that will be funded by the taxes when O’Malley signed the bill.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in May restored close to $21 million in budget cuts, The Associated Press reported. An increase in tax revenues allowed Patrick to restore less than 10 percent of the $225 million in spending reductions he originally ordered in December 2012. Most of the $21 million will go to local school districts.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May announced $90 million in funding to upgrade more than 50 state parks and historic sites, according to a press release on the governor’s website. The funding will come from the New York Works capital program, which is designed to deal with environmental capital needs, create jobs and generate local economic development.
Vermont’s unemployment rate dropped to 4 percent in April, The Associated Press reported. The April numbers reflected a one-tenth of a percent drop over March figures and is the lowest rate the state has had since late 2007. The state currently has the third lowest unemployment rate in the nation, 3.5 percentage points lower than the 7.5 percent national average.