High School Leadership: Preliminary Report

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[box class=”grey_box”]A report introducing New Hampshire Vision for High Schools and representing stakeholder workshops, forums, and focus groups conducted throughout 2004 and 2005. Prepared for the State of New Hampshire Department of Education.[/box]


Educators, education policy makers, and key stakeholders in New Hampshire are calling for improvements in the overall performance and completion rates of their high school students. This report introduces the New Hampshire Vision for High Schools and represents a compilation of a number of stakeholder workshops, forums, and focus groups that were convened throughout 2004 and early 2005. Over five hundred representatives of nearly every high school in the state and a wide array of stakeholder groups came together in these face-to-face events to offer their perspectives, hopes, and fears about high school in New Hampshire. The purpose of this report is to inform ongoing efforts to improve high schools in New Hampshire.

Why Be Concerned About High School in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire has a great deal that is going right related to its high schools. Graduation rates have increased steadily throughout the 20th century. New Hampshire’s business and community members have long supported its high schools as they endeavor to ensure quality educational outcomes for their students. New Hampshire’s citizens enjoy a relatively positive economic context—the lowest poverty rate in the nation, the fourth lowest unemployment rate, and the 7th highest per capita income. New Hampshire added over 65,000 new jobs between 1990 and 1996.

That said, New Hampshire’s stakeholders also recognize that the skills and knowledge needed to succeed are rapidly changing. Though graduation rates have increased throughout the 20th century, the high schools designed for the 20th century are not preparing students for success in the 21st. Over half of the jobs that New Hampshire added between 1990 and 1996 were for college-educated workers—and at least half of the projected new jobs in New Hampshire will also be for college graduates. Despite this reality, New Hampshire’s high school graduates are not as prepared for admission to college as they should be. Remediation rates among freshman entering college are significantly high. In addition, New Hampshire is 19th in the nation in the rate of postsecondary enrollments among high school graduations, thus relying on an in-migration of skilled workers to fill the most lucrative jobs.

High school graduates not planning to go to college immediately need more from their high school experience. As the American Diploma project states,

Successful preparation for both postsecondary education and employment requires learning the same rigorous English and mathematics content and skills. No longer do students planning to go to work after high school need a different and less rigorous curriculum than those planning to go to college.

No matter what the level of education that students complete, those with more education earn more than those with less. Yet, New Hampshire is 20th in the nation in its rate of high school completion. Even more telling, fifty-two percent of high school students feel only “somewhat prepared” to enter the workforce and twenty-two percent feel “unprepared,” while forty-five percent of employers feel students are only somewhat prepared and forty-five percent believe students are unprepared for work.

Awareness of these statistics coupled with an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement has spurred the New Hampshire impetus for creating a vision and a blueprint for high school improvement.

What Is Being Done?

The New Hampshire Department of Education convened a High School Leadership Team in 2004. With a small planning grant and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Education, the leadership team developed a series of activities leading to the creation of a high school vision and blue print that can help to frame local high school improvement efforts. First among these activities was the engagement of education stakeholders.

The Leadership Team is comprised of a representative cross-section of New Hampshire stakeholders and advocates. Membership on the Leadership Team continues to expand as the effort gains momentum.”

The data and commentary compiled in this report will be used by the High School Leadership Team as they craft a vision statement for high schools in New Hampshire. The results of this report will also be shared with additional stakeholders at the March 2005 conference on Breaking Ranks II, which is being organized by the New Hampshire School Principals Association and the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Out of these many gatherings of concerned New Hampshire stakeholders, a vision for New Hampshire’s high schools is beginning to take shape. Future forums and reports will continue the process of clarification and engagement so that the resulting vision statement and initiatives can best support local efforts to improve high schools.

Continue reading by downloading the full report (PDF).

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