The State of New Hampshire has many exciting educational improvement initiatives directed towards helping all students achieve high standards and other valued educational outcomes. In order to provide a resource for school communities regarding those educational practices that have shown promising results in improving student learning outcomes, the New Hampshire Department of Education established the Promising Practices Project in 1999.
The goal of the project is to identify schools in the state that are utilizing promising practices, achieving positive student learning results, and to disseminate to other schools information about "what works" and about the resources necessary to support these effective practices.
This web site and a companion hard copy are the result of the projects first year efforts (1999-2000).
Alignment with New Hampshires Best Schools Initiative
The projects efforts are closely aligned with those of the states Best Schools Initiative that supports school districts that are engaged in long term, collaborative school improvement efforts within their communities. The Promising Practices Project focuses its research and dissemination on the same six "action points" -- practices and indicators that have been shown to have a positive impact on student learning -- that are the foundation of the Best Schools Initiative. Each action point is described below
Students Ready to Learn
It is vital to understand and provide the conditions that enable students to learn in school. Students must be simultaneously well nourished, health, safe, and have the support of their families, the school, and the community at large. Students who are ready to learn eagerly approach opportunities to increase their skill and knowledge. They feel that learning is enjoyable, and more importantly, they feel increasingly empowered by each learning success. It is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and community members to ensure that every child has the maximum opportunity to develop physically, cognitively, and emotionally.
Excellence in Teaching
Excellent teaching is essential to insuring that each and every child learns not only to meet high standards but also to be a caring human being. Although excellent teaching is difficult to define, there is agreement among many professional organizations and teachers themselves that excellent teaching is teaching that enables all students to strive for high standards for learning and that provides a model of humaneness for students to emulate. In New Hampshire, the role of on-going professional development is a key component to assuring that quality teachers graduating from our higher education institutions continue to grow professionally throughout their careers.
Strong Educational Programs
A strong educational program is a course of study that expands what students know and what they can do, while it helps them learn a variety of lifelong "habits of mind" including persistence, collaboration, organization, commitment, citizenship, self-determination, and problem-solving. Qualities of strong educational programs include: standards that state what students should know and be able to do; curriculum that clarifies how the standards can be brought to life in the classroom and other learning environments; instruction that helps students learn in a variety of ways; and assessments that measure what students learn.
High Quality Learning Environments
High quality learning environments are seen in schools that offer security and well-being to children, promote a student-centered environment with a positive climate for learning, and offer physical facilities that are healthy and offer various uses of space. A national panel has drafted six basic principles to serve as guidelines for communities in designing new learning environments. These principles are: to enhance teaching and learning and accommodate the needs of all learners; to serve as centers of the community; to design buildings by involving all stakeholders in planning; to provide for health, safety, and security; to make effective use of all available resources; and to allow for flexibility and adaptability to changing needs.
Technology as an Educational Tool
Computers and other digital and information technologies have changed how we work, communicate, travel, access services, and learn. There is no doubt that the impact of technology on all aspects of daily life will continue to grow. Because of the unprecedented impact and potential of technology on our lives and our world, we must ensure that our young people acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in technology-based environments. There is now widespread agreement that technology literacy has become a new basic skill, and therefore a new basic for American education.
Parents, Citizens, Educators, and Business People Working Together
The need for and importance of parent, business, and community engagement in education is a significant issue for educational leaders. A report of the Annenberg Institute on Public Engagement for Public Education http://www.aisr.brown.edu/ cites five shared characteristics of effective community engagement in education: an inclusive and dialogue-driven process in which meetings are held in safe spaces conducive to an open exchange of ideas; a dedication to making real improvement in schools; a commitment to creating dynamic partnerships that bring parents, business, educators, and community members together; sincere efforts to find common ground and move toward broad consensus around school-related issues; and an atmosphere of candor and mutual trust that includes sincere attempts to listen and understand varying viewpoints.
Project Management and Advisory Structure
In the projects first year (1999-2000), the Department contracted with Dr. Mary McNeil from Plymouth State Colleges Center for Professional Educational Partnerships http://www.plymouth.edu/psc/mastered/home/cpep.html and Dr. Cheryl M. Jorgensen from the University of New Hampshires Institute on Disability http://www.iod.unh.edu/ to manage the project, in close collaboration with staff from the Department.
Drs. McNeil and Jorgensen worked closely with the Departments project officers and a 12-person advisory committee consisting of content area specialists and program managers in the Department. Several meetings of the project team were held each month to discuss research on effective practice, to identify potential "Promising Practice School Sites," and to discuss project management issues.
At the beginning of the project, a comprehensive literature review was conducted by the project coordinators to identify promising research-based practices in a wide array of subject areas and disciplines, including: literacy, professional development, technology, school climate, special education, career development, service learning, mathematics, social studies, science, world languages, guidance, career development, health and physical education, consumer and family sciences, equity, nutrition, etc.. Indicators of effective practice gleaned from this literature review were used to inform the review and selection process for the submitted applications.
Information about the project and nomination forms were sent to over 1,500 individuals representing teachers, principals, superintendents, special education directors, guidance counselors, Title I coordinators, career development educators, university faculty, school board members, members of the Best Schools Council, and representatives from a variety of professional and community organizations. Anyone was invited to submit a nomination, with the approval of a schools principal and superintendent. Applicants were given six weeks to submit a nomination after the nomination forms were mailed.
The process for nominating a school as a potential Promising Practice site required the completion of a brief application that included questions regarding:
Other Valued Educational Outcomes
A selection rubric was designed by the project team, reflecting key indicators and criteria as outlined in the projects original RFP from the Department of Education and from the literature review.
Several levels of review were conducted. First, project staff reviewed the applications for completeness and attention to each of the application requirements. Then, two review teams were assembled, comprised of project staff and members of the projects advisory committee. The applications were divided by topical area and individual members of each team reviewed those applications most closely associated with their area of expertise. Individual reviewers assigned a score to each application using the selection rubric. They also noted any areas that they felt needed additional explanation.
Members of the review teams then worked together as a group to share their individual scores, to assign a team score, and to place all of the submitted applications into one of four categories: 1) not recommended for designation as a Promising Practice school at this time; 2) need more information before a decision can be made; 3) accept as a Promising Practice school, but more information needed for the web site profile and Guide; and 4) accept unconditionally.
Additional information was gathered from some of the applicants through phone conversations or site visits. When all of the additional information had been collected, 14 schools were chosen to be profiled on the Promising Practice web site and within the hard copy Guide. They were notified that a draft of a school profile would be written and sent to them to check accuracy and that the site and Guide would be available to the public during the summer of 2000.
Anticipated Growth of the Site
It is anticipated that this project will continue and that an additional group of schools will be chosen as Promising Practice Schools for the 2001 school year, through a similar nomination and review process. The 1999-2000 nomination form is posted on this site. When forms for the next round of nomination forms are available, they will be mailed and posted on this site.
For More Information
Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Ph.D.
Mary McNeil, Ed.D.