House Summit on Next Generation High Schools
Submitted By Dr.
John Freeman, Superintendent of Schools, Pittsfield School
L to R: Jonathan Vander Els, Executive Director – New
Hampshire Learning Initiative, Michael Hopkins, Superintendent
of Schools – Rochester School District, Ellen Hume-Howard,
Curriculum Director – Sanborn Regional School District, Paul
Leather, Deputy Commissioner – New Hampshire Department of
Education, Brian Blake, Superintendent of Schools, Sanborn
Regional School District, Christopher Motika, Administrator,
Bureau of Integrated Programs – New Hampshire Department of
Education, John Freeman, Superintendent of Schools, Pittsfield
The second annual White House Summit on Next Generation High
Schools took place on Monday, September 12, in Washington, D.C.
About two hundred district and state education leaders from
across the United States, along with leaders from other
government agencies, foundations, and research entities
participated in the one-day event.
The Summit was designed to be a part of a national conversation
on transforming high schools to better serve all students and to
catalyze new thinking on the challenges and opportunities for …
making progress, especially at the state and district level.
New Hampshire was represented by seven educational leaders; I
was honored to be invited and participate in the Summit.
In addition to remarks and statements by leaders from the White
House Domestic Policy Council, the Council of Chief State School
Officers, the National Science Foundation and others, our U.S.
Secretary of Education John King also spoke to the group.
Dr. King advocated for a “leadership environment that supports
innovation” while he celebrated progress made that has resulted
in the highest high school graduation rate in our nation’s
Dr. King encouraged participants to
continue to “rethink high schools” to better prepare students
for success in life, to help students find their passions, to
support students in developing strong relationships with adults,
and to engage young people in creating a “vision of their
future” by rethinking “what students experience in their
classrooms,” developing critical new skills – both academic and
non-academic, and expanding “opportunities for kids.”
In late morning, I participated in a break-out meeting that
focused on supporting social-emotional learning; that is,
helping students develop competencies in self-awareness,
self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness,
and relationship skills. In this conversation, we reviewed
the research on the critical connection between students’
emotions and learning, as well as the challenges in helping our
young people develop these vital social-emotional competencies.
The conversations and speeches throughout the day strongly
affirmed the work being done in Pittsfield, with strong
community support, to redesign our schools to place students at
the center of their own learning. So many of our practices
and initiatives support the kind of personalization that other
leading districts and states in our nation aspire to achieve.
Personalized learning, project based learning, support for
social-emotional learning, one-on-one technology, dual
enrollment opportunities, learning opportunities outside of the
school building, and access to a range of courses are all
features of education in Pittsfield that were touted as critical
elements of “next generation high schools.”
Also mentioned was the advantage that small high schools hold
over large high schools in this important work to personalize
learning for all students. Increased likelihood of
dropping out and feelings of stress and disconnectedness were
noted as challenges that large high schools must face,
especially when their students have come from smaller schools.
I concluded my day at the Summit with both an affirmation of our
Pittsfield school redesign and a strong commitment to continue
to develop our schools for greater personalization to better
serve our students and our community. I wish that every
Pittsfield resident – both young people and adults – could have
joined me at the Summit to hear that the vision of our nation’s
educational leaders for our high schools is being actualized in
Pittsfield. I know that you would be as proud of both our
accomplishments and our aspirations as I am.