As part of its 65 by 25 initiative, which seeks to ensure that 65 percent of adults 25 and older in New Hampshire will have some form of post-secondary education by 2025, the Community College System of NH (CCSNH) is launching two interrelated initiatives. Known as Purpose First and 15 to Finish, these initiatives will serve as the focus of an upcoming summit at NHTI in Concord on March 24.
According to Beth Doiron, Director of College Access and DoE Programs and Initiatives at CCSNH, both initiatives are also part of Complete College America, which is charged to increase the completion rate of college students.
“We are working to increase college completion rates, which has been done in other states that have adopted 15 to Finish and Purpose First,” she said.
Doiron said Cape Cod Community College, for instance, has seen impressive results since implementing both initiatives in the 15-16 school year. She cited several statistics as proof, which include the following:
Students enrolled in 15+ credits
Fall 2014: 7%
Fall 2015: 8%
Fall 2016 (as of 6/17/16): 13%
With the state’s colleges invited to attend, the Summit will also welcome high school administrators and counselors. Doiron said she hopes the Summit can outline CCSNH’s work with the Complete College America Guided Pathways Initiative in the past year and how high school administrators and counselors can incorporate it at the high school level.
“We want to help students more easily identify pathways to degrees,” she added. “That’s why we are working towards reducing the number of credits needed for degree program completion to 60 so students will be better able to complete their degrees within two years…We have identified 7 major academic focus areas that will help students narrow their program selection and also assist with program completion. All of these efforts will contribute to increased college completion rates.”
According to Doiron, Purpose First seeks the widespread adoption by public postsecondary institutions of strategies and practices to help all students better discern their purpose in college.
“It’s a strategy designed to help students explore their after-college goals and choices earlier in their postsecondary experience,” she said. “Students are coming into college today unsure of what program path to take—we want to actively support students to build deeper awareness of purpose as they progress through school.”
15 to Finish
Through 15 to Finish, students will be actively encouraged to take a full credit load of 15 credits each semester.
“Most students are not taking the credits needed to graduate on time,” said Doiron. “If we can help students on a pathway right when they enter the college system and take a minimum of 15 credits per semester, it will go a long way toward ensuring they can earn their degree or certificate on time.”
65 by 25
Expressing optimism at Summit’s potential to bring a wide variety of stakeholders together for a common purpose, Doiron said the event underscores the very real need to advance 65 by 25. According to researchers at Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, 68 percent of jobs in New Hampshire will require educational attainment beyond high school by 2020. Present research, however, indicates that far less than 68 percent of New Hampshire’s workforce will reach that educational threshold, which is why CCSNH introduced 65 by 25.
“Our goal is to help ensure that 65 percent of adults 25 and older in the state will have some form of post-secondary education by 2025,” Doiron said. Purpose First, 15 to Finish and Guided Pathways are all designed to achieve this goal and position New Hampshire to support a stronger future economy.”
The CCSNH Purpose First and 15 to Finish Summit will take place on March 24 from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm. To learn more about the Summit, contact Doiron at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about CCSNH, visit www.ccsnh.edu.
According to findings from the NH Governor’s Task Force on K-12 STEM Education, the need for STEM programming has never been greater. These findings reveal that while employment opportunities in STEM-related jobs are growing in NH, there are not enough skilled employees to fill them.
Recognizing the need in the classroom and industry, Diane Canada, Career Technical Education Director at Portsmouth Career Technical Center, said they have recently forged powerful relationships with outside agencies to enhance their STEM curriculum.
“We have been fortunate to have Meg Prescott, Great Bay Community College IT Department Chair, teaching our computer science pathway courses as a pilot here in the Career Technical Center,” she said. “This arrangement with the college has been an extremely beneficial collaboration.”
More recently, she said they have provided space for New Heights, an experiential learning organization, to provide robotics programming after school for students through FIRST Robotics Competitions (team name is “The Wire Clippers”). She said the success of this arrangement—as well as a chance encounter with New Heights’ STEM coordinator Wayne Moulton—will yield a deeper collaboration.
“We happened to be at a competition where we were both judges and we got to talking about robotics, STEM and working together more at the high school,” she said. “I was very excited that New Heights was interested in expanding their work into the high school.”
In working to strengthen the educational opportunities for students through the collaboration, Canada said they plan to bring New Heights staff into the classroom during the school day to enhance the programming curriculum with robotics beginning in school year 2017/18.
“It’s an opportunity to build an even stronger programming curriculum as we seek to implement a two-year program in the Career Technical Center next year,” she said.
She expressed particular excitement regarding the opportunity for students to work with New Heights’ humanoid NAO robot.
“I saw a demonstration of it and I immediately recognized its applicability here,” she said.
NAO is humanoid with two arms, two legs, eyes, and ears. It can walk and talk and its artificial intelligence and developed behaviors evolve during the programming process. At a cost of more than 150 million dollars to develop, NAO’s effectiveness as a STEM teaching tool across all academic subjects has been substantiated by evidence in the US, Canada and Europe.
NAO would help students understand how various robotic technologies operate and why they work. It would invite students to problem solve, analyze and apply their knowledge in other settings, which is a cornerstone of Career and Technical Education (CTE).
For Moulton, the opportunity to work with students during the school day helps address a critical educational need.
“Students need hands-on opportunities to apply what they learn in the classroom into situations that are similar to the real world,” he said. “We really enjoy working with the students at Portsmouth High School and can’t wait till the next academic school year to expand our STEM offerings…I’m very grateful for all the staff who have shown their support.”
In looking to work with more students during the day at school, New Heights Executive Director Tracey Tucker said they are building “a STEM pipeline.”
“We are looking to work with elementary kids, too, in the Portsmouth School District,” she said. “I’m grateful for Diane and everyone in the District who are working with us to make this happen.”
Canada also expressed excitement at what lies ahead for students in Portsmouth.
“With Wayne as our robotics maker-in-residence, students will program robots using both Python and JAVA as computing languages to make the robot work,” she said. “Students will also be eligible to earn college credit from Great Bay Community College through Running Start.”
She said it is already obvious that students are eager to learn programming languages to program a robot to do any number of tasks. In looking ahead toward the future, she cited big goals.
“We have a vision of a space where students will be able to design, build, and program all types of robots and mechanisms to better understand computer science, machinery and manufacturing,” she said. “By working collaboratively, we are better able to teach the skills today that industry will need tomorrow.”
To learn more about New Heights, visit www.newheightsonline.org.
In October of last year, Educators Rising NH hosted its first fall TEACHERFEST on the campus of NHTI- Concord’s Community College as a way to expose students to NH colleges that offer degrees in education. Designed as a professional development day for high school students who attend CTE Teacher Education programs throughout the state, TEACHERFEST consisted of various mini-workshops on professional topics related to careers in education, curriculum areas, and teaching methods.
Noting approximately 350 Teacher Education students and teacher leaders from nine NH CTE centers were in attendance, Concord Regional Technical Center’s Valerie Koch, who helped organize it, said TEACHERFEST underscores a real need.
“Over 60% of teachers teach within 20 miles of where they went to high school,” she said. “We believe these future teachers understand the unique needs of our community and will be committed to serving children in their own region. We are hoping that Educators Rising NH will help to create a pipeline of quality teachers who earn degrees in our state and then stay in NH to teach and positively impact students and schools.”
Educators Rising NH is a organization that supports high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the field of education. Educators Rising NH was officially approved by the NH Department of Education in June 2016 as a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) and is an affiliate of the national organization, Educators Rising.
Sue Bergman, who coordinates the effort statewide for Educators Rising NH, said she wants students and teachers alike to know there is support for them. Our organization and website offer a ton of resources,” she said. “Educators Rising might be new in NH, but it is a terrific national organization…We want to continue to grow our membership here in NH.”
At TEACHERFEST, nine NH colleges and universities that offer degrees in Education were in attendance, while thirteen education professionals from throughout the state led thirty minute workshops on various topics. These topics ranged from Occupational Therapy, planning for college success, and effective parent communication to STEM education, connecting with students and more.
Other activities included voting for state officers, a selfie photo booth, a graffiti wall answering the question “What excites you most about becoming an educator?”, and “Education Rocks!” where students Zentangled™ (doodled) designs and words of inspiration on a rock to take home.
The event concluded with donated raffle prizes, students sharing their experience attending the National Conference in Boston last June, and the announcement of the first Educators Rising NH state officers. These offers are Laura Seymour (CRTC)- President, Jennika Mannesto (CRTC)- Vice President, Megan Coelho (PA)- Recording Secretary, and Emily Aham (PA) and Abigail Beaudoin (PA)- Public Relations Secretaries.
One of the highlights of the event, according to Bergman, was the keynote address by Ashley Preston, who was 2016 NH Teacher of the Year.
“We wanted her to speak at TEACHERFEST about why she is doing what she is doing,” she said. “We are losing good quality people in this state.”
For Preston, who is a preschool teacher at Parker Varney School in Manchester, NH, there is no career more rewarding–or perhaps overlooked–than as a preschool teacher.
“The biggest challenge I face as a preschool teacher is the lack of understanding about the value of early childhood education as well as what appropriate early learning actually looks like,” she said. “There is ample research on brain development that supports the importance of high quality early learning experiences. We need to provide these experiences and early academic support for our youngest students when their brains are naturally inclined to learn and grow so they are prepared for future success in school.”
Preston said the other challenge she faces as a preschool teachers is the lack of understanding by many as to what constitutes “a valid learning experience” for young children.
“Many see it as meaningless play and teachers are seen as glorified babysitters,” she said. “Preschool students should be playing because that is how they are learning,”
According to Preston, well-trained preschool teachers are able to use structured and unstructured play as learning tools to teach literacy, math, social skills, collaboration, language, and much more.
“Seeing play as invalid learning supports the idea that preschool is not important, which creates this negative perception for us to overcome,” she said.
In speaking on the experience of teaching and why it is so important for her, Preston said the students do more for her than she could ever possibly do for them. She referred to her students as “builders, creators, artists and more.”
“They make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry, but they never stop amazing me,” she said. “The things they can do, their ability to work and learn together despite their challenges or differences, it gives me hope every day.”
To learn more about Educators Rising NH, visit https://www.educatorsrising.org.