Ep. 151: Learn Everywhere with Frank Edelblut

December 3, 2019

Frank Edelblut, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, discusses the fruition and future of the Learn Everywhere program.

Marty Lueken: Welcome to another episode of EdChoice Chats. I’m Marty Lueken, director of fiscal policy and analysis here at EdChoice. In his book, Leaving to Learn, Elliot Washor asks the question, “What if there are ways to provide and give credit for learning wherever and whenever it occurred?” The New Hampshire Department of Education set out to address this very question. Early this year, the State’s Department of Education introduced a program called Learn Everywhere. Learn Everywhere is an innovative approach to learning, passed into law by the 2018 New Hampshire legislature, to capture existing student learning and create an ecosystem of additional learning opportunities for our students whenever and wherever they occur. It’s quoted on their department’s website. However, the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted 6-4 to issue an objection to the proposal, which threatens to sink the program. Today, New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut joins me on this episode of EdChoice Chats to discuss the Learn Everywhere program. Thank you for joining me on the podcast, Commissioner Edelblut.

Frank Edelblut: Marty, I’m happy to be here.

Marty Lueken: Well, let’s start off with the obvious question. What exactly is Learn Everywhere, and what sparked the idea?

Frank Edelblut: Learn Everywhere as you described is an innovative program that is really designed, at its root, to help close what we see in New Hampshire as achievement gap for our disadvantaged kids. Kids who come from free-and-reduced homes perform less well on our state-wide assessments, they perform less well on our NAEP results our state. We are looking for opportunities to close that achievement gap, and really to find an opportunity to give kids success, because we firmly believe that success breaths success, so we’re trying to find success for as many of our kids as we possibly can. Really, there was two stories that I like to tell that coalesce the idea. One was, I was at a high school, it was about 8:30 at night in Manchester, one of our urban areas here in New Hampshire. I don’t even know why I was at the high school at 8:30 at night but I was.

I walked in, and there was a group of probably at least 20 students who were scarring around, and I had one group of the students who were working with a row boat and they were programming a Java to get their robot to navigate through some obstacles that they had set up. These are fairly large robots, they are probably about 2 by 2 or 2 by 3 feet, so decent size robots. They were programming a way, and it is cool to watch. I go around the corner and I’m in the back in a sharp area and they’re actually working on another robot, and there’s a couple of gentlemen who were there with them, and I introduced myself and I met them. It was two engineers from Bosch,who were working with the kids who were working on building and designing these robot to be able to do things. I’m thinking, “Wow, this is really cool,” because you just could see the engagements from the kids, you could tell that they were learning a stuff through this very experienced and credential and qualified mentors.

Then, there was a young lady who was the captain of the team. She came up to me, and she goes, “Commisioner, you have to help us. The school is going to close at 9:00, and we need the school open till 11:00.” My first thought literally was, “I win the price, I got kids begging to be in school here.” But then, the second thought that I had was, “These poor kids are going to go home, and then they’re going to do one or two, sometimes three hours of homework, because all of these learning that they’ve been engaged in for the last four of five hours, that doesn’t count because it didn’t happen in somebody else’s artificial construct that they’ve built, which is what we refer to a school and the instructional model of that school.” That was the first thing that got me thinking. I’m like, “How do I harness this education that’s happening, because clearly these kids are learning a lot of great engineering concepts and principles, and all kinds of things that we want them to have in life?”

That was the start of thinking in the process that we began to go down, but then, another one that really… We had already developed some of the Learn Everywhere concept and stuff like that, but we were putting it together. I came across something, which was just a real inequity in the system. We have a large [inaudible 00:04:44] contractor in our state, and they do a ton of high-tech engineering work as well. I got the opportunity to go to a graduation ceremony for a program that they run, it’s called Women in Technology. In this program, they take young ladies who are—I think they take sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school—and they bring them to their facilities, and they put them through a 16-week program, during which they’re exposed to all kinds of engineering disciplines, so building breadboards and antenna, they’re building robotics and coding. They learned about engineering leadership, they’re mentored by some women in significant positions at DAE that are really giving them a vision for what their lives could be.

I did the graduation ceremony, and at the conclusion, I was just chatting with some of the students, and what I realized there was 24 young ladies who went through the program, of the 24, two were going to receive high school engineering credit, that’s one of the requirements we have in New Hampshire. Two of those young ladies would receive engineering credits that would count for as graduation, and 22 of them were not going to get any credit at all. Again, I’m thinking, “This doesn’t make any sense. Just because one kid goes to one high school and another kid goes to another high school, why does one kid get credit and another one doesn’t? It’s either good learning or it’s not good learning.” That just solidify the importance of the idea to try and dance something out, create a program that really does capture the reality that children and students learn everywhere. It’s not limited to 7:30 – 2:30 inside four walls.

I think sometimes we have a backward, a presumption that kids are learning, 80% of the stuff that they learn happens in school and 20% of it maybe happens outside. I just totally… maybe it’s the opposite. They’re probably learning 80% of what they learn outside of school and 20% of it inside the school. The question is, how can we capitalize on that, and create learning opportunities for students wherever it is that they acquire that information and that knowledge along the way. When we started to roll this out, we had all kinds of support and continued to have all kinds of support from community organizations that are saying, “Look, we’re working with kids every single day,” and teaching them things and bringing them to bright futures and great places.” What you find is then education moves out of the school and really becomes much more of a community effort. Cut me off anytime you want, Marty, but you got me on a roll.

Marty Lueken: Oh, sure. No, please go ahead.

Frank Edelblut: I really think, like the idea of Learn Everywhere, it has the opportunity to really achieve what we all really aspire to, which is to create continuous learning, people who are lifelong learners. Today, if a student is traveling down a road in their community and they pass the school, they think, “Well, I learned over there,” and then maybe after heading on a little bit more and they go to the Boys and Girls Club, they’re just thinking, “Well, that’s why I do things with my friends, whether that’s theater arts, or it’s maths, or it’s robotic, whatever it might be.” We separated, learning happens in this place that we call school, and then the other stuff happens outside. But imagine in a Learn Everywhere community, a child is going down the road and just thinks, “Well, I learned stuff over here, I learned stuff over here, I learned stuff over here,” and they recognize that even the adults that they engage with are in a continuous process of learning and growing.
It really, I think, has opportunity to transform our perception and our ideas of what it means to be a continuous learner.

Marty Lueken: Well, this all sounds really fascinating. Who would be eligible for the program? Is this program also open to students enrolled in public charter schools or private schools, for example? Or is it for students meeting some set of criteria?

Frank Edelblut: Even by the nature of your question implies that you’re building some of these legacy framework around, and I want to deconstruct that if I may.

Marty Lueken: Sure.

Frank Edelblut: In terms of it being available, these are programs that already exist in our community and they are available to kids all over the state anyway. If you’ve got a Boys and Girls Club that’s running a theater or arts program, and I only pick on that one because my kids do a lot of theater arts at Boys and Girls Club. There are already kids who are showing up there, they’re engaging it, they’re learning theater arts types of disciplines and stuff like that, maybe similar than the way that they might learn if they were in a high school program in a particular high school.
Those programs will continue to exist. What this program does is it harnesses that learning and allows the students to convert them into credit, leading to graduation, and that was really that mandate that the legislator gave in the law that was passed, saying, “There may be a hundred kids at a boys and girls club working in a theater, there may be some students who are there who are just there because everyone wants to be there.” Hopefully, everybody is there because they want to be there. But some of those students might say, “You know what, I am going to convert this into credit in my high school, leading to an arts credit, leading to my graduation.”

The programs themselves are open to anybody, because people can learn in all kinds of context in terms of cashing in the credit. I sometimes like to think of them as Zeebox for our gamified kids who might be listening to this podcast. But essentially, you are getting credit, and you get to take those credits and turn those into credits leading to graduation for a New Hampshire high school diploma. That is really an option that is up to a student. A student may participate in a program and say, “I’m just doing it because I want to do it. I’m not interested in the credit that I’m going to get for it.” Or another student, again we’re just creating flexibility might say, “I want to get credit.” Essentially, this is really an expanding universe type of program, because in many of the choice programs, what the arguments come down to is they see it as a zero-sum game. Like if somebody gets something here, then somebody else has to lose over here. This is a both/and kind of a solution.

You can have a student who earns a credit for performing arts at Boys and Girls Club. They get to bring that credit back into their school. Now, if that student wants, they can continue to participate in their performing arts programs in their school and get another arts credit if they want. Or that student may say, “Well, you know what, I’m really interested in foreign languages, so I’m going to take this extra block that I have, that I don’t have to do performing arts because I’ve already earned that credit, and I’m going to do a foreign language program or something like that.” Or you may have a student that says, “Spending four hours a night at the Boys and Girls Club doing these theater practices, so I’m going to take a study hone, I’m going to work on my homework during the day when I’m in school in this block, and so then I don’t have to get home from theater arts practice from the Boys and Girls Club at 9:00 or 10:00 at night and then do my homework.”
Again, it’s a very open concept. Again, I’d refer to as expanding universe of opportunity for all learners and all the folks in our community to be able to participate in that process. I don’t know if that helps to clarify how that works. The limitations that we have negotiated through the rule-making process is that students will only be able to bring in one-third of their credit into their high school. We require a minimum of 20 credits in order to graduate from a New Hampshire high school. Some of the high schools require more than that, and they’re allowed to do that. But a student will only be allowed to bring in… The schools are required to take up to one-third of credits through Learn Everywhere programs, and a superintendent can allow a student to take more if they want to allow them to do that. But they have to take at least a third of those credits if the student walks in with them.

The other thing that’s good about these credits is it’s not bound by your traditional instructional model. If you’ve got a student who is maybe in seventh or eighth grade, and they participate in a program and it allows them to earn a high school credit, they have that credit currency that they get to carry with them, and when they walk into high school, that’s when they can cash it in for that credit. It’s not bound by you have to be in this age span or in this grade. It’s also not bound by a calendar. It’s not a Carnegie unit requirement in this, it’s not bound by a school year. If a kid is doing a program over the summer, he can earn it over the summer.

If he happens to able to demonstrate his mastery and his ability to perform in that domain to the competencies and the standards that we have to that, that student, if they can do in two months, they can earn the credit in two months. If they can do it in one month, they can do it in a month. If they need 18 months to do it, they can do it in 18 months.
We’re unbounding these programs from a lot of the traditional instructional framework and infrastructure.

Marty Lueken: Interesting. Just to clarify, there is a limit on how much credit students can receive outside of school via Learn Everywhere. It would not be possible for a student to actually replace all of his or her coursework in school with program through Learn Everywhere. Is that correct?

Frank Edelblut: What it is is they could if the superintendent allowed it. In other words, every school has to take at least a third of the credits. They can walk in with seven credits, and just say, “No, I want credit for these seven credits.”

Marty Lueken: Got you. There’s a minimum.

Frank Edelblut: Yes. If the superintendent of the school says, “You know what? These kids doing a great job in this Learn Everywhere program. We’re going to allow them to bring in more credits,” then they could do that, but right now it is limited to a third.

Marty Lueken: Got you.

Frank Edelblut: It’s a good start, right?

Marty Lueken: Yeah. This sounds really interesting. Is there any program like this currently in place in any other state that you’re aware of?

Frank Edelblut: On the one hand, I will tell you that I am not aware of other programs that are like this in other states, but on the other hand, I will tell you that these programs already exist in every other state and in every other school. Let me explain what I mean. Nobody is just doing anything specific to Learn Everywhere in terms of earning credit outside of that school environment. But every year, schools have students that transfer into their school. They might transfer in from another state, they might transfer in from a private school. They might transfer in from a home-school environment. Those schools are transferring in those credits.

Those kids learn somewhere else, in this case as opposed to everywhere. They learned somewhere else and they’re bringing those credits in, so clearly the schools are already accepting credits from alternative educational environments. It’s not uncommon we have a fairly large home education population in New Hampshire, and so we’ve got students who’ve been home educated. It’s just being placed into great level work as they come into that school, and so in some respect, those schools are accepting those credits that are coming in, are they not?

Marty Lueken: Interesting.

Frank Edelblut: Just another perspective. Nothing specific to learn everywhere, but certainly schools are transferring credits in from other learning environments every single day. We’re not asking them to do something that they’ve not already been involved in.

Marty Lueken: What are some of the challenges that you see with implementing something like this and how do you address those challenges?

Frank Edelblut: One of the challenges, and you mentioned it in your opening is, this is new for the status quo system. The status quo is not used to dealing with… “Wait, learn everywhere? What do you mean? No, you have to learn here because we are in the school. Learning happens in school, learning doesn’t happen outside a school.” Can I just parenthetically, and this is a program that’s really designed for the secondary credits that are leading toward graduation. We just have got to recognize that kids are learning machines, and we have to not destroy that. As I often say kids show up at five or six [years old] in our school system, they haven’t a “teacher”, but they’ve already mastered an oral language. They know all kind of things before they even show up. The kids are learning machines, we have to harness that capacity and let that run and not try to constrain it by boxing it in too much. The organizations that typically are pushing back on these things are things like the Superintendents Association. I have worked closely with to try help them and…

I’ve got a lot of great superintendents in New Hampshire who support that, but organizationally more difficult for them, because they’re in charge of education, so if their kids are learning everywhere, then how will I know what’s going on? We’ve addressed those in terms of how we structure the program. You have obviously the educators associations are generally saying, “Well, wait a minute, we don’t know that these kids have a certified teacher teaching them.” Again, you just try to help them see that educator certification is important but it’s not the deciding factor about whether or not a student is learning. When I was visiting Central High School, those two Bosch engineers were teaching those kids incredible amounts of engineering. For us not to be able to tap and harness the community to be able to weigh in to the lives of our students is just not right, there’s an inequity right there. That’s an organization. We spend a lot of time with the special education community. For the most part, the special education community was very supportive of this, because they could see the opportunities that this opens up for special education students in particular.

I sometimes refer to the folks who have pushed back on it as the typical folks that show up whenever you’re trying to do something creative and innovative. I think it’s just hard for them to have a lot of creativity and innovation because their whole system is about the status quo and maintaining that status quo. So, it’s our job to really be persuasive and encourage them to come along the ride because it’s going to be good for kids.

Marty Lueken: Got you. The money question, literally, how is this program funded?

Frank Edelblut: Don’t touch the funding at all. In other words, I am not engaging the funding, so what you’ll find is that some of the organizations that offer these programs, like many of the organizations that offer these programs, offer them free to students. For example, we talked about Boys and Girls Clubs, they are offering free programs to students all day long. Really, open and accessible. Quite frankly, many of those organizations or organizations similar to them are already targeting the demographic that we’re interested in, which is the economically disadvantaged population of kids. They’re working with the students and helping them to get to good places, so we’re just trying to capitalize on that. One of the examples I like to point to you there is in math instruction. The thing is everyone in Boys and Girls Clubs around the state, we have nine in New Hampshire, has a math enhancement program that they have.

Essentially what that means is a student is in school and not performing well in math, and so they’re getting extra tutoring at the Boys and Girls Club. That tutoring is working for the students and helping them to acquire the skills and the competencies and mastery of the standards that they need in order to be good in math. My point is just let them finish the work rather than saying, “Well, you have to go back to school to demonstrate that you’ve done that.” If you can demonstrate if for the folks over and the boys and girls club, that works. There’s a lot of free programs. Other examples of that is, we’ve got the McAuliffe-Shepard Science Museum in New Hampshire. They want to do things. We’ve got businesses who want to stand up and sponsor programs, and again, these will all be free without cost to students who are doing it. Other organizations you find have sliding scales. We’ve got New Hampshire Institute of Art, which say is an art college in the state. It was recently just acquired by New England College, and they offer high school art program.

I’m very familiar with these. They offer them in Manchester. Essentially, the students are able to go with an after-school program, and then they take kids into their art program. They’re being taught by art professors at the collegiate level who are teaching these kids, and they offer those programs on a sliding scale. If you’re going to take a full semester course, it’s an $85 fee all the way down to no-cost students who qualify, and they’re participating in those programs for no cost at all. Then you have other programs that are programs that charge for the work that they do, but what we’ve really done is we have made a significant dent in what I call the equity gap there. Today in New Hampshire, we have private schools just like every other state does.

I’ll pick one of our more expensive schools may have an annual tuition of $40,000 a year for a student. Obviously, at $40,000 a year, it is inaccessible to most families in New Hampshire, quite frankly, a $40,000 a year. But what we have done by unbundling education in this way is that we have made some really high quality programming available to a lot more families.

As I say, we serve 98% of that equity gap. How we’ve done that is, for example, if I take a program like a Kumon Math Program, which is, you might be familiar with it, Marty, but it is a high-quality math instructional program. It costs $145 a month. If you’re a parent, and you’ve got a child and you think math instruction is really important for them, and I want them to get the best math instruction, you may not be able to afford $40,000 private school education, but you may be able to afford $145 a month math instruction at Kumon math center, that is giving really outstanding results for students who are going through there in terms of their math instruction that they’re offering. What we’ve really done through unbundling is increase access to more programming for more families across the state, and so we’ve gone a long way.

Again, I understand that not every family is going to even be able to access $145 a month, so we’re going to continue to work again with our nonprofits with fundraising efforts to try and make sure that we have sliding scales and availability across the board, so that everybody can try and find a way to access good programs for those students. If you think about it, one of the underlying premises of Learn Everywhere is that students are unique. I refer to as we’re building an end of one education system in New Hampshire. Essentially, when you recognize the uniqueness of students, what you recognize is that they’re going to have different paths, they’re going to have different ways that they can be engaged and enthusiastic about the things that they’re learning, and when they’re enthusiastic, they’re going to be successful in that. What this really does is it creates a myriad of pathways for students to be able to learn, and it meets the individualized needs of those end of ones that we have throughout our state.

Marty Lueken: So that our listeners are clear, the program does not affect funding for public schools of the students who participate in Learn Everywhere. Does that mean that those schools and perhaps their students stand to benefit? I imagine that if students participate in the program, they’re from public school, that means that the schools would then need to provide a lower level of services, so their obligations to educate students will be reduced, but they receive the same level of funding as before. Essentially, someone would stand to benefit, is that right?

Frank Edelblut: You’re pushing this theory a little bit further, and I don’t even know if it needs to go there. Remember this is a both/and. That student who takes a Learn Everywhere program, like say they’re doing a theater arts program at the Boys and Girls Club, the school may still offer theater and arts program for the students who are there. A student may take a Kumon calculus class, and maybe that student won’t be in a calculus class, so typically you might have 18 kids in a calculus class, and because one student took it a Kumon, you are only going to have 17 kids. Essentially, what we’ve done is we’ve increased the quality of the instruction in that traditional public school environment, because if a student doesn’t participate, they’ve got few kids, smaller classroom, and all of them are educator would argue that a smaller cohort of students in a classroom makes it easier for them. They could be more effective than their instruction. Trying not to engage that finance conversation at this point in time.

Marty Lueken: That certainly is a benefit that is often argued for other school choice programs as well. What criticisms of this program do you often hear and how do you respond? You mentioned before about certified personnel, but are there any other criticisms that you’ve heard?

Frank Edelblut: There is. As I would tell you, one of the main criticisms that high schools have come back with, and local school boards is they’re saying that in some way that this diminishes the quality of their local diploma. If you graduate from the Concord High School, they want that Concord High School to mean something to the community at large. They’ll say, “Oh, kids come out of Concord High School, they got a really rigorous program, and it’s great.” They’re somehow thinking like, “Well, if we don’t get to decide these credits and kids are just showing up with credits from the Learn Everywhere program, how do we know that we’ve maintained this high quality that we have in our Concord High School program?”

We’ve really been able to address that two-ways because, again, as a state program, we’re not giving high school diplomas. There’s still the local diploma that takes place. While we’ve defined the minimum standards for graduation, which is at the state level, so at state graduation you have to have 20 credits to graduate from high school. All of our high schools have added onto those and said, “Well, for a Concord High School diploma, you need 24 credits. For a Bow High School diploma, you need 25 credits.” What we’ve really done is we’ve tried to preserve the locality of that diploma so that local schools just can feel like, “This is what it means if you have a Concord diploma.” What we’re really doing is just contributing to meeting those minimum standards that a student would need in order to be able to graduate from high school.

One of the things that has become transparent through this process is that across all of our high schools, they actually tend to offer two diplomas. They may offer a Concord High School diploma, which is that one that they’re trying to preserve the uniqueness of, but then most of them offer what’s referred to as a minimum standards diploma. Those are for the children that are attending Concord High or who for whatever reason only were able to accumulate 20 credits during their stay there, so they get a minimum standards diploma. It’s one of those things that’s not advertised well in most high schools or across the state.

I think we’ve addressed the objection that they had in terms of how we structure this program, because we’re not graduating kids, we’re not forcing them to give them a diploma, they still get to define within the parameters of the minimum credits that you need to graduate what a diploma looks like. I think we’ve been successful with that. But that is one of the arguments that folks came up with.

Marty Lueken: What about accountability? Who is this program and the providers? Who are they accountable to and how do you make sure that students are actually learning and engaged?

Frank Edelblut: Great question and one that I’ve often heard. I’m going to answer that question, but I often like to start with a reflection on the current system that we have. As you’re probably aware, the NAEP results came out last week. We know that in the traditional schools, now this is nationwide, not necessarily New Hampshire, which performs a little better although… We’re one of the top-performing states, but I think there’s still the gap. I think we’re leaving somewhere between 50% and two-thirds of our students are not meeting the learning objectives that we have for them already in the traditional system. If we’re concerned and we’re saying, “How about accountability,” I think before somebody gets too excited about worrying about the accountability of Learn Everywhere, and I’m happy to talk about that, and I will in a moment, we also have to ask that honest question of ourselves about institutional education system, which is leaving 50% to 65%, 70% of the kids behind. If you come from a disadvantaged home, those numbers are even worse.

Within the Learn Everywhere program, we really have established some really strong levels of accountability, not the least of which in terms of accountability is allowing people to choose and vote with their feet. The reason why my children continue to go back a theater arts programs at a Boys and Girls Club is because it’s a great program. I am choosing that because it works and it is meeting the needs of my child, and it’s meeting the needs of many other children. The reason why students continue to go back to programing in the robotics domain, or that you have student who are applying for the Women and Technology is because those students and those families are saying, “This is a good educational opportunity. I’m going to choose it.” If a program is not offering something that is meeting the needs, then they’re simply not going have folks showing up, because it’s not compulsory that you go there. You have to deliver something that people believe produces value for you.

In terms of the accountability, we do require that Learn Everywhere programs have some type of assessments to validate that the students have mastered the competencies and the standards that are required to receive those minimum standards credits. In that assessment process, I think this is what I think is one of the collateral benefits of a program like this. That is the possibility of really a renaissance in assessment. What that means is that these various programs are going to be really creative, and I’ve already heard from them that’s why I can say this probably with so much force, in terms of how they determine and assess whether or not a student has capacity. Let me give you an example that I think really just makes the point. We’ve had conversations where folks from our Fish and Game Department, and they have a hunter safety program that they offer with the state, and they’re talking about partnering with the Turkey Hunters Association and the Fly Fishing Association to put together a P.E. class.

Now, I’d just have to tell you something. I’m thinking that the guys from the Turkey Hunters Association or the Fly Fishing Association are not going to put together a bubble chart assessment to see if the kids learned something. We’re probably going to have them find a turkey or something like that. Really, in terms of performance assessments, we have the opportunity to really open up the doors and allow kids to be successful and demonstrate their capacity in terms of what they have learned or what they have not learned. Accountability doesn’t go away, accountability just lives in a different domain, so it is not so constrained in terms of how it gets done.

Marty Lueken: Thanks for explaining that. It was mentioned at the start of this episode that lawmakers on New Hampshire’s Legislative Rules Committee recently voted to reject the Learn Everywhere program proposal. What is the future of the program, and what should our listeners pay attention to next?

Frank Edelblut: Again, this is just part of the resistance in terms of the program. There’s two actions that our Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules adopted. One is they made a final objection to the rules that we put forth. As a state agency, we have the ability to adopt those rules over that objection. They are making an administrative objection, but is not a final… It’s their final objection, but we still have the capacity to adopt those rules over their objection and implement them. In addition to making a final objection, however, they also did what they refer to as a joint resolution into the legislature. That tells you how strong a resistance is on something like this. They are going to introduce a joint resolution in our next legislative session that will be directed at preventing this program from going forward. In spite of this, we’ve pointed this out that we already have the law and the book that requires this program, and we are implementing these rules infidelity to that law.

But again, the politics that get involved in this kind of thing. They will be introducing a joint resolution, I don’t know what it will say, but I can say in our last legislative session, they introduced the bill to try and prevent these rules from going forward. While this joint resolution is pending, we can’t adopt the rules at that point in time, we have to let that process play out. But last legislative session, they tried to pass a bill to prevent these from going forward, and it did not pass, there was not upheld, and so we’re continuing to move down that path. We tried last legislative session, I think through this joint resolution is a last effort that they can put forward. I think it’s an overreach because I think it’s misguided in the sense that the program itself, everyone in the state of New Hampshire agrees that the program is good for kids.

What they don’t like is how it’s being implemented in terms of not participating in some of the traditional infrastructures around how kids learn. We all agree that it’s good for kids, and so we’re going to move to these political processes. We’re still optimistic that the rules are going to effect and the program will be able to benefit a number of kids throughout our state, but it will take some time. There are some stall tactics that are being implemented, and we just have to work through those processes. It’s been happening since… Like it happened last 2002, trying to slow the process down, slow down the train.

Marty Lueken: Sure, sure. Well, I wish you best and hope things turn out well for the program.

Frank Edelblut: I hope so, too. Again, I think everybody does because it’s good for kids. In other words, and that’s the whole reason that we’re doing this, is because we want kids to get to a good place. I don’t know how much time we have left here, but I have a story from another student in New Hampshire who has actually done a little video supporting the Learn Everywhere program, and she talks about her high school experience and how when she first got there, she was just paralyzed with anxiety and it was difficult, was calling all kinds of mental health problems for her.
Fortunately, in that case, her counselor recognized the problems, got her connected to a therapist, and they worked together and they found some educational options outside of the traditional school environment. What happened is that when this child got outside of the traditional school learning environment, he began to thrive, and they were doing well. As she describes it, she realized, “I’m actually pretty smart. I was failing everything in school, but I’m actually pretty smart.” Then what happened is she took that success that she had over there and she brought it back into school and was able to be successful so much so that in her senior year in college she did a senior project writing a book about her experience.

Marty Lueken: Wow.

Frank Edelblut: Today, I can happily report that she is a thriving sophomore at the University on New Hampshire and doing well, because we created an opportunity for her to succeed outside of that traditional instruction model, which we know is leaving so many children behind.

Marty Lueken: That’s great. We’ll put a link to that video up on our website after this is posted. OK, great. Great. Well, Commissioner Edelblut, thank you very much for being here with me on the program today. This has been a great conversation.

Frank Edelblut: Happy talking to you, Marty, anytime. Thank you so much.

Marty Lueken: Thank you for spending some time with us here on EdChoice Chats. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on SoundCloud, iTunes and Stitcher, so you never miss another episode. You can also follow us on social media @edchoice and be sure to sign up for email updates on our website at www.edchoice.org. Until next time, take care.