Wealth of info on NH Department of Education site

You can find out how your child’s school is doing on standardized tests and how much your district spends per pupil, but if you want to find out a teacher’s certification status, you’re out of luck.

The state’s Department of Education Web site has a wealth of information and data that parents can use to determine which schools they want to send their children.

The department compiles a list of information that is available on its Web site, www.ed.state.nh.us. Most of it can be found under the section of site called “data and reports.”

Among the reports that can be found there are attendance and enrollment, dropout data, how much federal aid the state gets, surveys of student behaviors, salaries and information about state aid.

For example, using the data that is available on the site, one can determine that Nashua spent $8,473.55 per pupil during the 2006-07 school year, the most recent data available for per pupil expenditures. The state average was $10,304.88.

Users can also access information about standardized test scores and use them to compare how schools are performing.

Also available is information about whether schools are making “Adequate Yearly Progress” and those that have been designated as “In Need of Improvement.” The designations are part of the federal No Child Left Behind act.

Lori Temple, spokesperson for the state Department of Education, is responsible for maintaining the Web site. She said 19 other administrators in the department can also add content.

Sunshine Week: Your right to know

Temple said much of the data put on the site is taken from reports that districts are required to submit on an annual basis, including enrollment and district spending.

“If we have the data, we try and get it up there as soon as possible, after the report is generated,” she said.

Temple pointed out that many of the reports are available in different formats, including Microsoft Word and Excel.

The department, through its testing vendor Measured Progress, hosts a school district profile site. Through this site, users can access school testing reports from the New England Common Assessment Program.

Testing data can be broken down to individual schools and districts. The data can also show how different groups of students are performing, such as low-income, special education and different ethnicities.

Temple said the department puts a link on the front page whenever new test scores are released.

One area where New Hampshire lags behind some other states is in making available online information about the certification and Highly Qualified Teacher status of teachers.

That information isn’t available anywhere on the state’s Web site. Some states have started implementing searchable databases that allow people to look up that information about any teacher.

For example, the Tennessee Department of Education has a search engine that allows users to type in a teacher’s name and it will tell you that teacher’s certification and Highly Qualified Teacher status.

Denise Littlefield, head of the state’s bureau of credentialing, said the state does keep track of certification and Highly Qualified Teachers status for all teachers, but that information isn’t available online.

People are free to submit requests for information through the state to look up a specific teacher’s certification, Littlefield said. There are no plans to put teacher certification information online, she said.

If you do enough digging, you can find the old Measured Progress site, which also includes data on school safety. Those numbers indicate things like the number violent acts and bullying incidents at each school.

Each district is required to submit that data each year, but the most recent data available on the state Web site dates back to the 2006-07 school year. Temple said she didn’t know why that hadn’t been updated yet.

Temple said the department is in the early stages of redesigning the site.

The Web site also has links to state education policies and laws and information about hearings and decisions reached by the state Board of Education.

Under the tab “Becoming a NH Educator,” users can find information about the state’s teacher certification process.