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Education Trends

New Hampshire’s Statewide Effort to Redefine Education for 21st Century

June 21, 2010

Editor's Note: Robert McLaughlin, Ph.D., today's guest blogger, administers the New Hampshire Department of Education's assessment and approval of professional educator preparation programs.

A Consortium of Educators

During May 26-28, 2010 a consortium of educators from New Hampshire's teacher unions, 13 institutions of higher education (IHEs) and their school partners, and ten other statewide educational associations came together to begin a concerted effort to transform P-12 education and educator development. They convened out of a shared sense of urgency to profoundly reshape education and educator development in order to far more effectively prepare P-12 students for the challenges of 21st century life.

Held at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) in Manchester, the first annual invitational New Hampshire Summit on Redefining Educator Development for 21st Century Learners addressed four goals: (1) To assist the state's IHEs to develop new or strengthening existing partnerships with schools, in which both partners committed themselves to transforming pedagogy, assessment and educator development; (2) to create a statewide network of such partnerships; (3) to begin to identify the policies, systems and resources needed to institutionalize and steadily expand this network; and most fundamentally, (4) to engage educators, administrators, teacher educators, policy makers, school board members and other key stakeholders in a sustained conversation to develop consensus about what exactly "21st century education" really means and looks like.

Changes in Pedagogy

Participants, panelists, keynote presenters, and the steering committee that had designed the summit all agreed that 21st century skills (collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.), learning environments (hybrid, online, service-learning based, etc.) and learners who bring multi-tasking and technology fluency to school, all require major changes in pedagogy. Educators need to greatly reduce the time they spend lecturing and preparing students for standardized tests, and much more time facilitating students' learning via engaging, real world project-based instructional strategies.

Different Staffing Needs

Keynote presenter Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF, see and, noted another challenge that requires rethinking the role of teachers and how schools are staffed. With the aging of the "baby boom" generation of educators, over half of the nation's 3.2 million P-12 teaching workforce is expected to retire within the next decade. Fortunately, recent research by NCTAF also indicates that a sizable percentage of retiring educators and of baby boomers in other fields is willing to provide part-time teaching, mentoring and other vital services in the nation's schools. To offset the loss of so many full-time teachers, Carroll explained, schools will need to change their staffing models by creating "learning teams" and "learning studios." He emphasized that education is perhaps unique in still depending on its professionals to work as isolated, solo practitioners. In contrast professionals in such fields as medicine and law now routinely work in teams.

An Exciting Statewide Dialog

As will be explored in future blog entries, the NH summit set in motion a very exciting statewide dialogue among educators not only about the need for major and rapid change but also about how to support one another's efforts to realize this change. Each of the IHEs and their school partners developed ambitious goals to transform instruction, assessment and preservice and inservice educator development. In addition, the leaders of the 12 statewide organizations that jointly convened the summit have agreed to work together, both to revise state policies on educator certification, preparation program approval, and districts' master plans for professional development; to engage their respective members in statewide conversations to explore what "21st century" education means and looks like; and to contribute to efforts to engage students, families, the public and the media about the deep changes in educational practices and systems that are needed to ensure children are well-equipped for lifelong learning and economic opportunity in the 21st century.

The NH summit came as the outgrowth of a contingent of 10 NH educators attending a national invitational summit for 100 thought leaders in education, that was held in Austin TX in December 2009. That summit was on "redefining teacher education for digital age learners." When our team returned from Austin, we were determined that NH would be the first state in the nation to undertake a statewide conversation to put the policy recommendations that emerged in Austin into action.

I will post another blog entry very soon that will highlight the specific next steps that NH summit participants have agreed to undertake. In the meantime, if you have any questions or want to learn more, please post in the comments below.

Robert McLaughlin, Ph.D. administers the New Hampshire Department of Education's assessment and approval of professional educator preparation programs. He chairs the steering committee that conceived the nation's first statewide summit on "redefining educator development for 21st century learners," held in May 2010. This group is now leading efforts to support ongoing efforts to strengthen P-20 partnerships across NH committed to transforming pedagogy and educator development. He also serves on the steering committee for a national invitational summit, held in Austin TX in December 2009, on "redefining teacher education for digital age learners."

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