Monday, July 6, 2020
New Hampshire is on the leading edge of improving educational outcomes for all students. The New Hampshire Universal Design for Learning Network, recently approved to extend into a fourth and fifth year, stands out as a shining example. Currently 70 schools and over 500 teachers have collaborated across the state to implement Universal Design for Learning (UDL) a learning framework devoted to increasing access and ownership for all learners. As New Hampshire Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut said, "One of the toughest challenges in education is helping all students find a pathway to a bright future. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' key to learning, and no single approach will work for all students." UDL is a framework that embraces this variability of learners. The UDL innovation network is a partnership between the New Hampshire Department of Education and CAST, a research, design, and professional learning non-profit and the originator of the Universal Design for Learning framework. In its fourth year, CAST is seeking to recruit 16 new schools from across the state. Participating in the network has been transformative for so many educators, with one teacher reporting,
CAST has also seen schools fully take on UDL implementation to support ambitious agendas of school transformation. Jennifer Levine, Director of Professional Learning for CAST said, “We have seen schools really take to UDL, critically examining barriers to student learning across their whole school. Because of this hard work, we are seeing students become deeply engaged in their learning and becoming experts on how they learn best.”
The end of the last school year was thrown into turmoil because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Schools had to shift with very little warning or time to plan toward remote learning. Schools across the state worked very hard to make this work for all of their students. Schools in the UDL network consistently reported that they were more prepared to develop flexible remote learning opportunities for their students because of the common language and framework that UDL provided for their design of instruction. Dean of Students of the Birches Academy Charter School, Ruth Templeton said, “COVID forced us to look at different ways of reaching kids. The knowledge that we gained from our UDL experience made that shift to remote learning so much more effective and impactful for the students.”
CAST is now accepting applications for new New Hampshire schools to join the network for 2020–2021.