Posted in Common Core, Testing, Vermont

“In the name of Vermont we defy all the world!”

Come York or come Hampshire, come traitors or knaves,
If ye rule o’er our land ye shall rule o’er our graves;
Our vow is recorded—our banner unfurled,
In the name of Vermont we defy all the world!

The Song of the Vermonters, 1779 by John Greenleaf Whittier

INDEPENDENT VERMONT

The Vermont Republic was founded in 1777 and lasted until it joined the union as the 14th state in 1791. Control of the area, called the New Hampshire Grants, was in dispute between New Hampshire, and New York.

In January, 1777, a group of representatives from towns in the area declared themselves independent and the Vermont Republic was born.

On June 2 of that year, the name of the fledgling nation was officially changed to “Vermont” (from the French, les Verts Monts, meaning the Green Mountains)…

Today, Vermont still shows its independent spirit. On August 19, the state, through its Board of Education, released a Statement and Resolution which declared its independence from the nation’s standardized testing insanity…at least on paper.

Before we get to that, however, let’s look at Vermont and the Common Core…

COMMON CORE

Common Core: Mixed Review of New Computerized Tests for Students

Vermont adopted the Common Core along with 43 other states and is proceeding with its implementation — testing and all.

…Vermont’s “hands are tied” when it comes to the federal dollars the state receives for education, making it impossible for the state to objectively gauge the quality of the tests.

“Right now, we can’t step away from the money,” he said. “The only thing we can do is give the testing the dignity it deserves — which is not a great deal.”

Rebecca Holcombe, the secretary of the Agency of Education, says the tests will be more difficult and schools should expect to see their scores drop in the first few years of the implementation of Common Core.

“My fear is that people will see low scores and say that it’s a failing school,” she said. “We’re the same school we were the day before the test, and to say otherwise, does an injustice to our kids and to our teachers. Until we look at how our kids are developing, not just in one year, but in several, I don’t think it’s fair to make that kind of inference.”

So the state is jumping right into the Common Core and its testing. Not all Vermont citizens are convinced that’s a good idea…

In interviews with educators, administrators, government officials and citizens, criticisms of the tests surface again and again: The tests take too much time, they’re not providing useful information, there’s no evidence to show SBACs are any better than any enumeration that’s come before.

Those concerns may be justified, Holcombe said.

“We don’t know whether those are the skills that will make you successful or even whether it’s the information that you need to know,” she said. “We’re in new ground, new territory.”

but, who listens to ordinary citizens, anyway…


Common Core: Vermont Schools Brace for New Tests, Standards

One problem with the Common Core is that they were rushed “to market” and students, teachers, schools, school systems and states don’t have time to prepare. This means that testing over standards which haven’t been thoroughly taught will likely occur and student test scores will plummet just like in New York…

…hurried preparation is the norm. Because the Common Core standards must be implemented this school year, the state has adopted a “ready or not” approach. That’s left some schools and teachers scrambling to comply.

Diane Ravitch argued that the Common Core has never been tried…never been piloted. No one knows whether the standards, developed in secret, are adequate or appropriate. Bill Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, and member of the Vermont Board of Education agrees.

Officials say it is likely that 70 percent of students will not achieve proficiency the first year on the SBAC tests. That prediction, Mathis said, should make Vermonters raise their eyebrows. “These (standards) have never been validated in a real life context,” he added.

Brent Kay, Superintendent of the Orange Southwest Supervisory Union school district, acknowledges the reality of the situation…

“I’m not trying to be critical, it is a challenge,” Kay said. “Any kind of change of this magnitude is going to take time. And because the assessment’s starting next year, we’re just not going to be ready.” [emphasis added]

RESOLUTION AGAINST TESTING

Despite the fact that the state has adopted the Common Core and revamped its entire testing system accordingly, the State Board of Education released a statement which is essentially a Declaration of Independence against the testing craze currently afflicting America’s public schools.

Vermont State Board of Education: Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability

…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.

The principles adopted by the Board return testing to its “proper role” and demand that it be removed as an instrument of evaluation of educators. It also states that when reporting school scores it will “include a report on the adequacy of resources provided by or to that school in light of the school’s unique needs.”

It calls for a reduction in the amount of time spent 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.

It calls for an end to using standardized tests for high stakes decisions…

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…

In short, the Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability calls for the common sense use of testing in Vermont (and the rest of the nation) and increased resources to provide an equitable education for all students.

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.

The state of Vermont must abide by federal law and since they adopted the Common Core they are stuck with the testing, unless the state legislature follows Indiana’s lead and “unadopts” the Common Core. However the State Board of Education has made a strong statement against the current “reform” movement program of test and punish.

This is what our state boards of education should be doing instead of playing politics, promoting charters and voucher plans, and all those other things which don’t contribute anything to the education of children. It’s time to stop abusing our students with the overuse and misuse of standardized tests. Vermont has taken the first step. Who’s next?

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.