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  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    Instructor Meredith Potter, left, talks with Sonya Russell and Travis Nesbitt during World English class Tuesday, May 1, 2012, at Campbell High School in Litchfield.

  • Photo by Cameron Kittle, Telegraph staff.

    Members of Campbell High School in Litchfield stand with Gov. John Lynch and state Education Commissioner Virginia Barry in Concord, following the school's recognition for innovation Tuesday. From left to right: teachers Justin Ballou, Shawn Flynn and Linda Frost; Vice Principal Laurie Rothhaus; Gov. Lynch, Virginia Barry, and Principal Bob Manseau.
  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    Instructor Michael Boutselis talks with, top to bottom, Janelle Psaledas, Lauryn Kmon, and Casey Mellen during World English class Tuesday, May 1, 2012, at Campbell High School in Litchfield.

  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    Nicole Gray, left, and Caitlyn Depietro work together on an assignment during World English class Tuesday, May 1, 2012, at Campbell High School in Litchfield.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Campbell High School among those honored for innovation in education

For the past 11 years, Campbell High School in Litchfield has paved the way for educational innovation.

The school’s competency-based learning system – where students must show they have learned the proper skills and knowledge in each course before moving on – received some push-back from the community at first, but it received statewide affirmation Tuesday in Concord.

New Hampshire was named the winner of the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation, as Gov. John Lynch and state officials from the Department of Education were on hand to accept the national award and hand out local awards to five schools that have led the innovation charge.

Campbell was among them, along with the Great Bay eLearning Charter School, Kearsarge Regional High School, Pittsfield Middle High School, and the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School.

Each school was named to the “Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence” by Education Commissioner Virginia Barry, recognizing their work. Barry also recognized past Blue Ribbon Schools in New Hampshire, including Hollis Brookline High School, Bath Village School and Sandown North Elementary School.

“It’s important to be bold,” Barry said.

That describes Campbell’s efforts with the competency-based system, said Campbell social studies teacher Justin Ballou.

“It ensures every student has the skills they need to be successful for their future plans,” he said. “We can’t bank on a 75 average means they’re educated. We want to assess those separate skills. We really try to share these things with other schools as well.”

The competency-based system creates a more diverse learning experience and prepares students for their future, either in college or the working world. The recognition Tuesday was “a little overwhelming,” said Campbell principal Bob Manseau, but it was a proud moment for the teachers.

Campbell math teacher Shawn Flynn, 40, said he left Pelham High School to join Campbell when it opened 12 years ago because of the competency system. He said the school presented “a new way of thinking” about teaching and he wanted to be a part of it.

Science teacher Linda Frost, 52, made her transition to Campbell High School from a secondary school in England for similar reasons.

“We’re on the edge,” she said. “Everything we do is based on current research and best practices.”

High schools across the state transitioned to the competency-based system in 2008-09 with great results, said state Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather.

“It’s a recognition of the work we’ve been doing for 10 years now,” he said. “It shows that we’re headed in the right direction.”

The statewide graduation rate is up to 86.6 percent, and its dropout rate is remarkably low, Lynch said Tuesday.

“What is particularly gratifying for me is what’s happening at the local level,” Lynch said. “By focusing on every single student, we’ve been able to lower the dropout rate in New Hampshire to a remarkably low 1 percent.”

Lynch said education drives jobs, and New Hampshire will continue to produce an educated workforce with its economic strategy.

The praise continued from federal education representative Jason Snyder, deputy assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“We’re asking states to think dramatically differently and act dramatically differently than they have before,” he said Tuesday. “We’re seeing that in New Hampshire.”

New Hampshire education officials will receive the award at the 2012 National Forum on Education Policy in Atlanta on July 10. The Frank Newman Award for State Innovation has been handed out since 1988 by the Education Commission of the States, but New Hampshire is the first state to win it alone – every past year it has been awarded to two or more states, Leather said.

The recognition is drawing attention from other states who want to emulate New Hampshire’s success, Leather said. He has already hosted webinars with education officials in West Virginia and Iowa and has another planned soon with those in South Carolina.

“Many states are looking at what New Hampshire is doing,” he said.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or