Archives for category: Vermont

Voucher advocates like to point to Vermont as the nation’s oldest program. When it was started in 1869, it was intended to pay the tuition of students whose town did not have a public school. It has very little in common with the curren voucher movement, which takes its inspiration from the libertarian economist Milton Friedman, who wrote a seminal essay in 1955 proposing that all students should receive vouchers to attend the school of their choice. The group that was fastest to seize upon his ideas was Southern segregationists, who saw school choice as an effective way to keep their schools racially segregated. It took a dozen years until the federal courts and the U.S. Department of Education compelled Southern schools to desegregate their schools.

Meanwhile, Vermont’s voucher program continued undisturbed.

Today as education writer Anne Waldman of ProPublica explains, the voucher program funds a disproportionately large number of students from affluent families who choose expensive private schools, including out-of-state boarding schools like Exeter and Deerfield Academy.

“Vermont’s voucher program is a microcosm of what could happen across the country if school-choice advocates such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos achieve their vision. By subsidizing part of the cost of private schools in or out of state, it broadens options for some Vermonters while diverting students from public education and disproportionately benefiting wealthier families like the Bowmans.

“Vermont vouchers have been used to send students to ski academies, out-of-state art schools and even foreign boarding schools, such as the Sigtunaskolan School in Sweden, whose alumni include Sweden’s current king and former prime minister. Vermont paid more than $40 million in vouchers to more than 60 private schools last year, including more than $1.3 million to out-of-state schools, according to data received from the state’s education agency through a public-records request.

“Of the almost 2,800 Vermonters who use publicly funded vouchers to go to private schools in state, 22.5 percent qualify for free or reduced price lunch, according to state education data. (The data excludes out-of-state private schools.) By contrast, 38.3 percent of public school students in Vermont have family incomes low enough to qualify them for the lunch discount.”

Voucher advocates in other states will insist that they want vouchers for poor black and Hispanic students or for students with disabilities.

Such claims, however, are the first step towards the goal of making vouchers available for everyone.

Vermont sets no income limit for students who choose to use vouchers. However, the vouchers may not be used in religious schools, because the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1999.

Betsy DeVos has said many times that she seeks vouchers for every kind of school, including religious schools. Private and religiousschools set their own admissions requirements, so the schools choose the students. Public schools are required by law to accept all students, regardless of race, religion, family income, sexual orientation, language or disability status.

Vermont is the smartest state in the nation. Not because of test scores, but because the officials in charge of education actually care about children and about education. When they look at the state’s children, they see children with names and faces, not just data. When they think about their schools, they see them as places where children should experience the excitement and joy of learning.

Vermont did not apply for a Race to the Top grant, meaning that it never was compelled to adopt Arne Duncan’s ideas about how to reform schools (which he failed to do when he was superintendent in Chicago).

Vermont never enacted charter school legislation. Vermont has its own kind of school choice program. If a district or town does not offer a public elementary or high school, students may receive a voucher to attend a private (non-religious) school. Such vouchers (called “town tuitioning”) are available only when there are no public schools available.

Vermont education officials think for themselves. Read their brilliant letter to Secretary of Education John King, advocate of high-stakes testing and privatization of public schools, about the inadequacies of ESSA and his proposed regulations.

They say:

The logic of ESSA is the same as NCLB. It is to identify “low performing schools.” Its operating theory is pressuring schools in the belief that the fear of punishment will improve student learning. It assumes poor achievement is a function of poor will. If we learned anything from NCLB, it is that that system does not work. It did not narrow gaps and did not lead to meaningful improvements in learning. If ESSA is similarly restrictive, we can expect no better.

This thinking perpetuates a disabling narrative about public schools. We ask for leadership from Washington that celebrates the glories of what we can accomplish rather than unrelenting dirges.

We are dismayed that the federal government continues to commoditize education and support charter and private schools which segregate children and show no particular learning advantage. We are disturbed that the federal government continues to underfund its commitment to our most vulnerable children, who are disproportionately served by public schools. We are disappointed that the federal government could not embrace and promote a more expansive understanding of the purpose and value of public schools in creating a strong citizenry.

We take note of the $1.3 billion budget cut approved by the House Appropriations Committee. While you have recently called for a broader “well-rounded” education, you suggest that these initiatives be paid for out of the funds that were just slashed. The federal government is ill- credentialed to call on more from states while providing less.

The Vermont State Board of Education feels it is time we commit to attacking the underlying challenges of poverty, despair, addiction and inequity that undermine school performance, rather than blaming the schools that strive to overcome the very manifestations of our greater social troubles. In the rules and the implementation of ESSA, we urge the federal government to both step-back from over-reach and narrowness; and step-up to a new re-framing, broadening and advancing of the promises of what we can achieve for the children and for the nation.

The letter can be found here.

Vermont continues to be amazing.

 

It recently issued a letter to parents telling them not to worry about the Common Core tests because the passing mark is set so high that they are meaningless. No national the world has ever reached the level expected of students on these tests.

 

This is an excerpt from the letter:

 

These tests are based on a narrow definition of “college and career ready.” In truth, there are many different careers and colleges, and there are just as many different definitions of essential skills. In fact, many (if not most) successful adults fail to score well on standardized tests. If your child’s scores show that they are not yet proficient, this does not mean that they are not doing well or will not do well in the future. 

 

We also recommend that you not place a great deal of emphasis on the “claims” or sub-scores. There are just not enough test items to give you reliable information.

 

The Vermont Board hits on a bizarre aspect of the Common Core and the associated tests: There is no single curriculum or test that can test for both college and career readiness. The student who plans to go to an Ivy League school, the student who plans to be an electrician, and the student who plans to join the military, the student who plans to be a farmer, cannot be judged by a single measure.

 

 

 

 

Andy Hargreaves is a professor at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. He received the Grawemeyer Award in 2015. He and two of his graduate students–Mary Bridget Burns and Shanee Wangia–wrote the following response to an editorial in the Boston Globe defending high-stakes testing.

Hargreaves, Burns, and Wangia said:

Want to improve the quality of American high school graduates? Keep testing them! That’s the recommendation of last weekend’s Boston Globe Editorial: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2015/06/12/moratorium-school-tests-goes-overboard/zVVfrMRHbQO0a0GyK2mhLO/story.html. The editorial blasted a proposed state bill that would implement a three-year hiatus on testing, be it the state test or the PARCC assessment. Citing concerns that the Massachusetts Teachers Association had too much influence on the legislation, and calling it a “blunt instrument” rather than a “well-drafted public policy prescription,” the editorial recommended voting against the bill. The educational performance of Massachusetts is nationally renowned, it said, and its high-stakes tests had been a big contributor to the state’s success. So why abandon them?
 
Well, it is a bit of a stretch to say that high-stakes testing contributes to high educational performance in Massachusetts or anywhere else for that matter. Massachusetts is certainly a top performer in the US and receives many visitors from all over the world who come to learn from its success. But other New England states perform just as well or almost as well as Massachusetts, yet their approaches to assessment and testing are strikingly different. Let’s look at how two of these other states compare on the well regarded National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) which is not high-stakes (in that it doesn’t have rewards or punishments attached to it), it is applied only to samples of students rather than all of them, and it cannot be manipulated by teaching to the test.
 
Among all states on the 2013 NAEP, New Hampshire shares top ranking with Massachusetts in 4th Grade reading and math and is just one or two places behind Massachusetts in 8th grade reading and math with a barely perceptible difference of 5 points or less on a scale reaching the high 200s. The only place where such a tiny difference in number of points counts as part of a very large score is in the final minutes of a basketball game!
 
Essentially, the two states perform at an almost identical level, including on other state-by-state comparisons such as child well-being where they rank first and second respectively. Yet New Hampshire has had a very different and more flexible assessment strategy to that of Massachusetts – using a suite of assessment tools as part of common standards established across Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
 
Meanwhile, over the state line from “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, the Green Mountain state of Vermont is an equally impressive educational performer. It ranks 2nd– 5th place on different aspects of the NAEP, diverging no more than 6 points from the other two states discussed here. It is also another high scorer on child well-being. Yet, Vermont’s approach to testing is much more cautious and skeptical than that of Massachusetts. Indeed, when the Commissioner of New Hampshire and the Secretaries of Education for Massachusetts and Vermont took the stage together at Boston College last December to debate the reasons for their respective “states of success,” Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, a staunch opponent of standardized testing, criticized tests for becoming tools with harsh consequences attached, rather than ways to monitor teacher and student progress.

http://learninglab.wbur.org/2014/12/03/new-england-education-forum-highlights-concerns-about-high-stakes-testing/

So the Globe Editorial is just plain wrong when it claims that state tests explain high performance in Massachusetts. Neighboring states without this armory of high-stakes assessment have performed equally well. There is high performance with tests and also without them. If we can do well with or without the tests and the consequences that are attached to them, then perhaps we should decide whether we keep them or ditch them on other grounds.
 
Nearly a million students in Massachusetts take tests like the MCAS or PARCC assessments, at a cost of $29.50-$46 per student. By putting those tests aside, Massachusetts alone could save anywhere from $28-44 million dollars per year. The millions of dollars currently spent on testing could be reallocated instead to supporting teachers more effectively by providing more designated time for them to work together and give feedback on each others’ teaching within the school day, to improve their teaching.
 
Without the constant concentration on tested subjects, the state could also open up the curriculum beyond the relentless basics of literacy and math to include the artistic, scientific, project-based and out-of-school experiences that are an everyday experience for children of the privileged, but that should be the entitlement of everyone. We could support greater leadership stability in high poverty schools so that these schools can attract great leaders and then keep them. We could stop the revolving door of school leadership in under-performing schools, alleviating the pressure these schools feel to stave off receivership and closure before their work of their leaders has had time to have an impact. Like Canada, Finland, Singapore, and other high performing nations, we could achieve a lot more with far less testing. We can do more. We could do better.
 
Tests of all kinds can be tools for diagnosis and monitoring in the service of improvement. But they should not be the final say in a student’s academic future or a teacher’s professional career. We can test prudently rather than profligately and get equally strong or even stronger results. That’s not only what high performing countries have learned. It’s also what some of Massachusetts’ immediate neighbors have been doing for years.
 
Andy Hargreaves, Mary Bridget Burns and Shanee Wangia

Lynch School of Education

Boston College
 
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): Interstate Comparison of 2013 Scores
 

NAEP Vermont (VT) Massachusetts (MA) New Hampshire (NH) Nation (Public)
4th Grade Reading 228 (5th place) 232 (1st place) 232 (1st place) 221
4th Grade Math 248 (4th place) 253 (1st place) 253 (1st place) 241
8th Grade Reading 274 (3rd place) 277 (1st place) 274 (3rd place) 266
8th Grade Math 295 (2nd place) 301 (1st place) 296 (2nd place) 284

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2013/pdf/2014465MA4.pdf

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2013/pdf/2014465MA8.pdf

Civil right attorney Wendy Lecker chastises education leaders in Connecticut for their whole-hearted embrace of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. She contrasts her home state with the wisdom of Vermont.

Vermont’s State Board deminstrated independent judgement:

“Last week, Vermont’s State Board of Education unanimously approved a new resolution on the SBAC tests, which gives strong and informed guidance that Connecticut’s education leaders are unwilling to provide.

“Vermont’s resolution declares that while the SBAC tests “purport to measure progress towards `college and career readiness . . . the tests have not been externally validated as measuring these important attributes.”

“Accordingly, the state board resolved “until empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes (“college and career-ready”), test results should not be used to make normative and consequential judgments about schools and students.”

“Vermont’s state board also resolved that until Vermont has more experience with evidence from the SBACs, “the results of the SBAC assessment will not support reliable and valid inferences about student performance, and thus should not be used as the basis for any consequential purpose.”

“Finally, honest education officials admit the SBACs have never been proven to measure “college readiness” or progress toward “college readiness,” and in fact are unreliable to measure student learning. In other words, the foundation upon which the Common Core rests is an artifice, and our children are being subjected to unproven tests. Connecticut districts have been diverting resources and time toward a testing regime without any proof that it would improve our children’s education.”

Conclusion: Vermont puts children first. Connecticut doesn’t.

Peter Berger teaches English at Weathersfield High School in Vermont. He says that the amount of instructional time wasted for faux professional development days is absurd. Equally absurd is the time and money wasted on consultants touring the latest fad, who never were teachers.

Likewise, the new online Common Core tests are a boon to the tech corporations, but not to the students, who actually write more on paper-and-pencil tests.

“I’ve stood behind my eighth-grade students as they’ve taken several publishers’ Common Core era tests. The directions were convoluted, the questions frequently did “focus on small details” and isolated, obscure bits of literary terminology, rather than on “overall comprehension,” and the questions often were ambiguous. Many were actually indecipherable, with words missing and incorrectly arranged so that students were left asking me what the question meant, and I was left to fill in the syntactical blanks and guess what they were being asked to do.

“The myth that these assessments are scientifically designed to generate meaningful data is insupportable. Any such guarantee is a fraud. Last week’s test was accompanied by a notice that the assessment contractor had added five questions to the test this year, for a total of 20 questions, in order to “provide more accurate test scores and less fluctuation in scores between test windows.”

“In other words, students, teachers, and schools that failed last time, and suffered interventions and sanctions as a result, maybe didn’t fail. Of course, students, teachers, and schools that appeared to succeed maybe didn’t succeed.

“Oh, well.”

Who dreamed up all this nonsense?

Peter Greene sees signs that educators are fed up with the top-down mandates from non-educator Arne Duncan, fed up with the failed punitive policies of NCLB and Race to the Top. Now we know that Washington cares about one thing only: test scores, and now we know that the beneficiaries of Washington’s obsession are the testing companies. We have now had nearly 15 years of test-based incentives and sanctions and ample evidence that this approach has driven joy out of learning and failed to achieve anything that benefits students or society.

As the school year begins, let’s hope that there will be more states following Vermont’s lead by rejecting federal mandates and setting forth their own vision of what good education looks like. Let’s hope that there will be more teachers like those in Chicago and at Garfield High in Seattle who insist on doing what’s right for their students. Let’s hope that there will be more superintendents like those in Washington State who were compelled by NCLB to send home a letter saying “we are a failing school,” but added a cover letter saying that it was not true. Let’s hope that integrity, courage, and candor break out everywhere.

If the issues were not so serious, watching test-and-punish advocates backpedal in the face of the rapidly growing testing resistance movement would be great entertainment. From U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan crying crocodile tears about the impacts of the very policies he advocated, to Rhode Island Commissioner Deborah Grist’s sudden embrace of an even longer suspension of the graduation testing requirements she long defended, to Florida Governor Rick Scott promising a commission to review the testing overkill his political allies imposed (a stalling tactic also adopted by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), politicians are beginning to wake up to the power of grassroots activism. At the same time, courageous local leaders — such as a Colorado Superintendent, several Florida school committees and the Vermont State Board of Education — are pushing the envelope by calling for a moratorium on standardized testing to allow for development of better assessments.

No question that 2014-2015 is going to be a most exciting school year for assessment reformers as PBS education reporter John Merrow makes clear in his predictions!

Colorado District Superintendent Wants to End Standardized Testing
http://gazette.com/superintendent-wants-to-end-standardized-testing-in-d-11/article/1536136

Feds Tell Florida: Test English Language Learners in English ASAP
http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/state-and-feds-in-a-showdown-over-when-to-test-students-still-learning/2193627

Palm Beach School Board Considers Opting Out From Florida State Testing
http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/blog/palm-beach-county-school-board-wants-opt-out-standardized-testing

Hundreds Endorse Lee County Opt-Out Petition (now almost 1000 signers)
http://www.news-press.com/story/news/education/2014/08/20/opt-out-petition-gathering-signatures/14357851/

Florida Lags on ACT . . . Again
http://www.news-press.com/story/news/education/2014/08/20/florida-lags-on-act-scores-again/14329565/

Governor Calls for Review of Florida Standardized Testing Policies
http://www.naplesnews.com/news/politics/gov-rick-scott-calls-for-review-of-florida-standardized-tests_34082712

Undermining Kindergarten in Illinois, One Test at a Time
http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/29358972-452/undermining-kindergarten-one-test-at-a-time.html#.U_VEH15a-hM

Chicago Teachers Report on How to Organize a Test Boycott
http://www.livingindialogue.com/starve-testing-beast-chicago-teachers-show-us-organize-test-boycott/

Illinois Super Tells Parents What Matters Most in Education
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/25/superintendent-tells-parents-what-matters-most-and-its-not-common-core/

New Massachusetts Teachers Union Head: How Tests Are Failing Our Schools
http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2014/08/26/barbara-madeloni-massachusetts-teachers-association-president/

Concerns Grow as New Mexico Shifts to Computerized Testing
http://www.ruidosonews.com/ruidoso-news/ci_26367421/state-testing-public-schools-goes-digital

New Mexico Teachers Say State Evaluation System Does Not Effectively Measure Performance
http://krwg.org/post/teachers-say-state-evaluation-system-does-not-effectively-measure-performance

Why New York State Common Core Test Scores Should Be Ignored
http://www.alternet.org/education/why-new-york-states-common-core-test-scores-should-be-ignored

Final Opt-Out Numbers Show Movement Jumped in New York City
http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2014/08/19/final-opt-out-numbers-show-movement-jumped-in-city/#.U_SWkBYXNrs

Wanted: The Whole Truth About New York State Exams
http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/wanted-truth-state-tests-article-1.1910722

Rhode Island Commissioner Back Tracks: Now Supports Longer Delay in Grad Test Requirement
http://www.providencejournal.com/news/education/20140825-r.i.-education-commissioner-gist-recommends-delay-in-test-based-graduation-requirement-poll.ece

Texas Suspends Math Grade Promotion Test Requirement
http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/state-suspends-staar-math-requirement-for-grades-3/ng7YR/

Vermont Calls on Feds to Overhaul NCLB Testing Policy
http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20140822/NEWS03/708229936

See Vermont State Board of Education Resolution

Click to access EDU-SBE_AssmntAcct_Adpted081914.pdf

Vermont Secretary of Education Speaks Out Against Standardized Testing
http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/23/vermont-education-secretary-pushes-back-testing/14469139/

Federal Stubbornness Falsely Labels Washington Schools as “Failing”
http://www.maplevalleyreporter.com/news/272344131.html#

Parents Want an End to the Testing Obsession
http://neatoday.org/2014/08/20/poll-parents-want-an-end-to-the-testing-obsession/

Kindergarten “Sweat Shop” Testing Frenzy Comes Under Fire
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/22/kindergarten-sweat-shop-testing-frenzy-comes-under/

Predictions for the New School Year: Growing Resistance to High-Stakes Testing Tops the List
http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=7151

Duncan Offers States One-Year Postponement on Test-Based Teacher Evaluation
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/22/education/education-secretary-allows-reprieve-on-test-based-teacher-ratings.html

See FairTest News Release
http://fairtest.org/fairtest%E2%80%99s-reaction-proposal-postpone-testbased-te

Administrators Pledge Ethical Treatment of Children Whose Families Choose to Opt Out
http://www.livingindialogue.com/administrators-pledge-ethical-treatment-students-opt/

Report Urges Fewer Tests, More Peer Review
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2014/08/accountability_report_urges_fe.html

Education News: Groundhog Day All Over Again?
http://www.reformer.com/opinion/ci_26390022/groundhog-day-all-over-again

Standardized Testing Is Really Great: Two Poems
http://www.examiner.com/article/standardized-testing-is-really-great-2-poems

Public TV Airs Two Videos Showing Excellent Schools Using Healthy Assessment (check websites for dates, times and channels)
http://augusttojune.com/
http://www.goodmorningmissionhill.com/

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 696-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

The Vermont State Board of Education adopted a resolution on assessment and accountability with a message: We will not let the federal government bully our children. We read research and incorporate it into our policy decisions. This set of principles and resolutions could serve as a guide for every state and school district about the appropriate uses of assessment and the true goals of education in our society.

Vermont State Board of Education

Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability Adopted August 19, 2014

The Vermont State Board of Education is committed to ensuring that all students develop the knowledge, capabilities and dispositions they need to thrive as citizens in their communities, higher education and their careers in the 21st century. The Board of Education’s Education Quality Standards (EQS) rules aim to ensure that all students in Vermont public schools are afforded educational opportunities that are substantially equal in quality, and enable them to achieve or exceed the standards approved by the State Board of Education.

These rules were designed to ensure continuous improvement in student performance, instruction and leadership, so that all students are able to develop high levels of skill and capability across seven essential domains: literacy, mathematics, scientific inquiry and knowledge, global citizenship, physical and health education and wellness, artistic expression, and transferable 21st century skills.

To achieve these goals, educators need to make use of diverse indicators of student learning and strengths, in order to comprehensively assess student progress and adjust their practice to continuously improve learning. They also need to document the opportunities schools provide to further the goals of equity and growth.

Uniform standardized tests, administered across all schools, are a critical tool for schools’ improvement efforts. Without some stable and valid external measure, we cannot evaluate how effective we are in our efforts to improve schools and learning. Standardized tests – along with teacher-developed assessments and student work samples — can give educators and citizens insight into the skills, knowledge and capabilities our students have developed.

What standardized tests can do that teacher developed tests cannot do is give us reliable, comparative data. We can use test scores to tell whether we are doing better over time. Of particular note, standardized tests help monitor how well we serve students with different life circumstances and challenges. When used appropriately, standardized tests are a sound and objective way to evaluate student progress.

Despite their value, there are many things tests cannot tell us. Standardized tests like the NECAP and soon, the SBAC, can tell us something about how students are doing in a limited set of narrowly defined subjects overall, as measured at a given time. However, they cannot tell us how to help students do even better. Nor can they adequately capture the strengths of all children, nor the growth that can be ascribed to individual teachers. And under high-stakes conditions, when schools feel extraordinary pressure to raise scores, even rising scores may not be a signal that students are actually learning more. At best, a standardized test is an incomplete picture of learning: without additional measures, a single test is inadequate to capture a years’ worth of learning and growth.

Along a related dimension, the American Psychological Association wrote:

“(N)o test is valid for all purposes. Indeed, tests vary in their intended uses and in their ability to provide meaningful assessments of student learning. Therefore, while the goal of using large-scale testing to measure and improve student and school system performance is laudable, it is also critical that such tests are sound, are scored properly, and are used appropriately.”

Unfortunately, the way in which standardized tests have been used under federal law as almost the single measure of school quality has resulted in the frequent misuse of these instruments across the nation.

Because of the risk of inappropriate uses of testing, the Vermont State Board of Education herewith adopts a series of guiding principles for the appropriate use of standardized tests to support continuous improvements of learning.

1. The Proper Role of Standardized Testing – The purpose of any large scale assessment must be clearly stated and the assessments must be demonstrated as scientifically and empirically valid for that purpose(s) prior to their use. This includes research and verification as to whether a student’s performance on tests is actually predictive of performance on other indicators we care about, including post-secondary success, graduation rates and future employment.

In addition, standardized test results should be used only in concert with a diverse set of measures that capture evidence of student growth and school impact across all important outcomes outlined in the Education Quality Standards.

2. Public Reporting Requirement – It is a state and local obligation to report on the quality of the schools to the citizenry. Standardized testing is part of this reporting obligation. The state board encourages local public reporting of a diverse and comprehensive set of school quality indicators in local school, faculty and community communications.

3. Judicious and Proportionate Testing – The State Board of Education advocates for reducing the amount of time spent on summative, standardized testing and encourages the federal government to reduce the current requirements for annual testing in multiple subjects in every grade, 3-8, and then again in high school. Excessive testing diverts resources and time away from learning while providing little additional value for accountability purposes.

4. Test Development Criteria – Any broad scale standardized assessment used in the state of Vermont must be developed and used appropriately in accord with the principles adopted by the American Educational Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the American Psychological Association.

5. Value-added scores – Although the federal government is encouraging states to use value added scores for teacher, principal and school evaluations, this policy direction is not appropriate. A strong body of recent research has found that there is no valid method of calculating “value-added” scores which compare pass rates from one year to the next, nor do current value-added models adequately account for factors outside the school that influence student performance scores. Thus, other than for research or experimental purposes, this technique will not be employed in Vermont schools for any consequential purpose.

6. Mastery level or Cut-Off scores – While the federal government continues to require the use of subjectively determined, cut-off scores; employing such metrics lacks scientific foundation. The skills needed for success in society are rich and diverse. Consequently, there is no single point on a testing scale that has proven accurate in measuring the success of a school or in measuring the talents of an individual. Claims to the contrary are technically indefensible and their application would be unethical.
The use of cut-off scores reports findings only at one point on a statistical distribution. Scale scores provide significantly more information. They allow a more valid disaggregation of scores by sub-group, provide better measures of progress and provide a more comprehensive view of achievement gaps.

7. Use of cut scores and proficiency categories for reporting purposes – Under NCLB states are required to report school level test results in terms of the Percentage of Proficient Students. The federally mandated reporting method has several well-documented negative effects that compromise our ability to meaningfully examine schools’ improvement efforts:

 Interpretations based on “percent proficient” hides the full range of scores and how they have changed. Thus, underlying trends in performance are often hidden.

 The targets established for proficiency are subjectively determined and are not based on research. Interpretations based on “percent proficient” also lack predictive validity.

 Modest changes to these subjective cut scores can dramatically affect the percent of students who meet the target. Whether a cut score is set high or low arbitrarily changes the size of the achievement gap independent of the students’ learning. Thus, the results can be misleading.

So that we can more validly and meaningfully describe school- and state-level progress, the State Board of Education endorses reporting performance in terms of scale scores and standard deviations rather than percent proficient. We will comply with federal requirements, but will emphasize defensible and useful reporting metrics.

8. The Federal, State and Local Obligation for Assuring Adequacy and Equality of Opportunity – Much as the state must insure a high quality education for all children, the school must be provided with adequate and equitable resources from the federal, state and local governments and must use these resources wisely and judiciously. Thus, any report on a school based on the state’s EQS standards must also include a report on the adequacy of resources provided by or to that school in light of the school’s unique needs. Such evaluations shall address the adequacy of resources, the judicious use of resources and identify any deficiencies.

Resolution on Assessment and Accountability Vermont State Board of Education

WHEREAS, our nation and Vermont’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s and the state’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in the nation’s public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, a compelling body of national research shows the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in areas such as narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education requests that the Secretary of Education reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which has at its center qualitative assessments, does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, decreases the role of compliance monitoring, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on the United States Congress and Administration to accordingly amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act”) to reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states; and

RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on other state and national organizations to act in concert with these goals to improve and broaden educational goals, provide adequate resources, and ensure a high quality education for all children of the state and the nation.

In the New York Times, Motoko Rich reported Arne Duncan’s scathing criticism of Arne Duncan’s policy of test-based evaluation for teachers. The story shows that Duncan dreamed up this policy, that he promoted it in Race to the Top, and in the waivers he offered states to avoid the onerous conditions of No Child Left Behind. Rich points out that Duncan borrowed the rhetoric of his most scathing critics in offering states a delay. The story includes an excellent quote from Anthony Cody, recommending that the federal government butt out and leave decisions about teacher evaluation to states and districts.

Kevin Huffman said that Tennessee will continue with Duncan’s policy, even though Duncan has denounced it. “In Vermont, by contrast, the state board of education recently adopted a resolution saying formulas based on test scores would not be included in teacher evaluations.”

It is a good story about the politics of the issue.

The only point missing from the story is that the policy has failed to make a difference wherever it has been tried, that teachers in states like Florida are rated on the performance of students they never taught, and that the American Statistical Association warned that teachers affect only 1-14% of test score variance. In short, the policy doesn’t work. It demoralizes teachers to be judged by a false metric. It has failed. But its advocates can’t bring themselves to admit failure.