Sunday, December 10, 2023


What is an ELO?
An Extended Learning Opportunity, or ELO, is a credit-bearing learning experience that takes place outside the traditional classroom setting. An ELO is an opportunity for learners to get academic credit for experiences that are learner-centered, individualized, hands-on, and rigorous. Where students, with the help of Woodsville High School faculty and the community, help decide what they are going to learn, how they are going to learn and how they are going to demonstrate their learning.

Is an ELO right for me?
  • Can I commit to doing a project on my own time?
  • Do I have the self-motivation to direct my own learning?
    * There are 5 steps that MUST be completed in order to earn ELO Credit:

    You will establish these components with your coordinator in an individualized learning plan at the beginning of your ELO. This will help you focus, eliminating the “what do I do now?” issues that can arise.
    The types of ELOs that WHS offers:
    1. Project-Based Learning (PBL)(typically an Independent Study)  2. Career Exploration(typically an Internship)  3. Service Aide
  • How to get started:
    1. Complete the ELO Proposal
  • 2. Meet with the School Counselor (Mrs. Farr)(after completing the ELO Proposal)  by scheduling a time w/ Mrs. Mclure
    3. Meet with the WHS ELO Coordinator (Mr. Nichols)
    4. If approved…then Complete the ELO Design Plan
    Find a Mentor (this will be your supervisor in your ELO).
    —-Discuss expectations and complete the Mentor/ ELO agreement.
  • See the WHS ELO Checklist

Your goal is to demonstrate you have mastered the competencies that you, your Highly Qualified Teacher(HQT), and the ELO Coordinator have agreed upon. By doing so, you can then earn academic credit.

The Haverhill Area School District (SAU 23) recognizes ELOs as experiences that may earn a full or half credit. ELOs can be used to earn some core subject competencies, but this must be approved well before the ELO begins.

Group ELOs

You may complete an ELO with other students. Each person in a group ELO is personally responsible for his or her learning. The competencies may be the same or different for each team member of a group depending on what knowledge they already have. You still need a HQT to serve on the team.

Highly Qualified Teachers(HQT)

After you have chosen your topic, your first task will be to get a FORMAL agreement from a teacher who is qualified in the subject of your ELO to serve as your HQT. For example, you cannot ask your favorite teacher to be your HQT if they are not certified in the subject. Your ELO coordinator can guide you to teachers who are qualified in the area you plan to explore. Only your HQT can determine if you are proficient or have mastered the competencies in your plan. You will meet with your HQT at agreed upon times.

The idea of Extended Learning Opportunities emerged from community concerns in the mid 1990s. At that time, learning was measured by the Carnegie Unit – the amount of time students spent in class. Businesses and colleges were not satisfied with this time-referenced system; they were more interested in what students learned and could apply to expectations beyond high school.

Faced with high drop-out rates, low achievement, and poor student aspirations, the New Hampshire Board of Education has worked to redesign high schools. They designed the unit of learning to be competency-driven, created flexibility regarding the time, space, and methods of high school learning, and included alternate pathways for students to demonstrate achievement. Although Woodsville High School has a drop-out rate of less than 1%, we recognize the importance of using ELOs to meet all students’ needs.

Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) provide multiple ways for students to learn outside of the classroom and achieve credit toward high school graduation. These personalized learning opportunities are founded on student interest and need, are planned in advance, and include rigorous content. They offer authentic opportunities for students to collaborate with a Highly Qualified teacher and/or a community partner to demonstrate competencies outside of a traditional classroom.

ELOs may take many forms, including independent study,  private  instruction, performing groups, internships, community service, apprenticeships; and online courses. Extended Learning Opportunities are rigorous and may include four components: research,  product, presentation, and reflection. Assessment is based on achievement of high school competencies and goals. Through Extended Learning Opportunities, students earn high school credit toward graduation.


ELOs align with state and national standards, local curriculum frameworks, and course competencies to ensure academic content. In some cases, ELOs may go beyond the local curriculum to provide additional academic options, depending on individual student interests. To be successful, students will demonstrate critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving according to predetermined rigorous standards.

When a student engages in an ELO, he/she also develops important life skills such as time management, collaboration, effective communication, and technological literacy. Regular monitoring and assessment will accompany a student’s journey.

All students benefit from rigorous learning opportunities, and ELOs are designed for the full range of learners. Struggling students will receive needed individual attention and support; quiet students will be given a voice; and students looking to move beyond the available curriculum will be challenged. Each ELO is customized to respond to students’ needs.


ELOs capitalize on student motivation and engagement. They are designed to address the learning styles, strengths, interests, and needs of each individual student. They are real-world experiences that not only demand rigorous academic achievement, but also build skills that promote students’ personal development in an area of interest. ELOs may give a student an option to explore a career choice in a wide variety of settings.

ELOs can be designed for individuals or small groups, and may be a way of gaining credit for activities in which a student is already engaged. After formalizing a contract to meet ELO standards and expectations, students pursue learning opportunities that are meaningful to them.


ELOs involve the whole community. Students receive guidance and support from the ELO teacher who will help design the learning experience and monitor its progress. Students will be paired with a certified teacher who is an expert in the area of study. The teacher will monitor and assess academic learning. When appropriate, the student will also be mentored by a community partner who will provide the real-world connection so important to student achievement. Parents will be included from the outset and provide needed support and encouragement. ELOs will frequently end with a panel presentation to include all stakeholders, including the Haverhill schools’ administration.

ELOs are NOT:

  • Intended to be an easy way for students to achieve credit.
  • To remove a student from a classroom.
  • Intended to replace local teachers.
  • Based on the amount of time spent on a task
  • Always school-based.
  • Always between the opening and closing school bells.
  • Memorizing facts.


  • About rigorous academic standards based on standards and competencies.
  • An extension of the classroom.
  • A way for teachers to individualize instruction and share their passions.
  • About demonstrating growth and achievement.
  • An expansion beyond the school building and into the community.
  • Before, during, and after school, on weekends, during vacations, and during the summer.
  • Applying knowledge

Woodsville High School – Looking Ahead

Extended Learning Opportunities are a powerful addition to traditional schooling. They provide authentic opportunities for students to follow their interests, expand the curriculum to the real world, and work individually with a teacher and expert. ELOs offer numerous benefits to students as they develop self-confidence and independence.

Extended Learning Opportunities will improve our school’s capacity to implement and assess competency-driven learning, providing a vehicle to meet New Hampshire redesign mandates. ELOs will bolster community connections, and the outcomes will be rewarding for all. Extended Learning Opportunities promote student engagement, provide rigor, and offer authentic experiences for all types of students. We welcome your involvement.

by Mariane Gfroerer, NH Department of Education

In New Hampshire, research and experience has shown us that when students are allowed to demonstrate what they’ve learned, both their skills and their knowledge are increased. Smart assessment is a learning experience in itself. Such assessment focuses on developing higher order thinking skills such as reasoning, performance skills, and critical thinking skills.

The example of the state driving test has been used to illustrate the importance of performance assessment. How comfortable would we be if we required our 16-year olds to pass only a multiple choice and short-answer exam before receiving their license? Performance – demonstration of competency – is considered a critical and essential skill in this instance. It tells important and vital things about current skill and potential mastery.

We believe that performance assessments must involve student demonstration against an overt set of performance standards or competencies that are known ahead of time, before learning commences, by both the teacher and the student. We also have seen that teacher observation of the student demonstrating these competencies is the most authentic type of performance assessment. The breadth and depth of the student’s ability to analyze foundation and content knowledge, to evaluate it, synthesize it and apply it, are right before the observers in a powerful way.

The overt set of criteria – what we refer to in New Hampshire as the course-level competencies – adds to the effectiveness of the student demonstration, showing whether the student has developed real world abilities to take in knowledge and use it in ways that not only enhance their personal skill set, but expand it. Allowing and encouraging application of learning in novel and new situations is an excellent way to see how deep the learning is.
According to Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues, performance assessment

  • Allows instruction to be altered in a timely fashion to meet student learning needs
  • Elevates the focus of instruction to higher order thinking skills
  • Leads to more student engagement in both the learning & the assessment process
  • Provides clearer information to parents about student development, accomplishments and needs
  • Provides more accurate and comprehensible assessment of what students know & can do
  • Results in greater teacher improvement in buy-in, collaboration, and teaching practices (and, we’ve found in New Hampshire, also leads to greater teacher retention)

In New Hampshire, the first step to putting performance assessment into the hands of teachers was to require, in policy, course-level competencies. An example of these course level competencies can be seen in the Civics Competencies that we are requiring, for comparability purposes, of the various schools in our Extended Learning Opportunities pilot initiative, funded by Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

Based on our experiences in the development our state Competency-Based Assessment System from 1996 through 2006, we are committed to keeping assessment as close to authentic as possible for our extended learning opportunities – real demonstration of learning in real contexts. To do this requires portability and transferability of the learning criteria – and we have this in course-level competencies.

The early Competency-Based Assessment emphasized habits of mind and being, what we called cross-cutting skills (Problem-Solving and Decision making, Communication Skills, Self-Management, Ability to Work With Others, and Information Use: analysis, research, and technology) as well as content knowledge demonstrated in English language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and the Arts, clustered in demonstrable units of learning. These competencies were developed by teams of educators and administrators with student input. Students were a great help in reducing the educational jargon so that the competencies could be used by students, teachers, parents, and community partners.

From 2003 through 2005, revisions and additions to our Minimum Standards for School Approval were developed with enormous stakeholder input. Policy construction hand-in-hand with those who must implement it and abide by it is the New Hampshire way. The changes to these standards for schools emphasize

  • learning expectations that are portable and transferable (i.e., all HS courses must have developed course level competencies through which credit is granted toward graduation based on student demonstration of mastery of those competencies)
  • rigorous, focused, and deep learning inside and outside of the traditional classroom settingELO-Design-Template-2-NH-DOE