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Education in Two Worlds: One State Has the Courage to Stand for What It Believes

On August 19th, the Vermont State Board of Education issued a remarkable document. Their "Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability" is a remarkable document, and it is essential reading for educators and politicians in all 50 states. Is it too much to hope that it is the bell wether of a trend?

The members of the Vermont State Board refused to bow to the pressures of fad and federal coercion. They took courageous stands against useless over testing of children and the unfair evaluation of teachers. Here are a few excerpts from their policy paper:

  • Standardized tests do not "...adequately capture the strengths of all children, nor the growth that can be ascribed to individual teachers."
  • "...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."
  • "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."
  • "Excessive testing diverts resources and time away from learning while providing little additional value for accountability purposes."
  • "Although the federal government is encouraging states to use value added scores for teacher, principal and school evaluations, this policy direction is not appropriate. ... Thus, other than for research or experimental purposes, this technique will not be employed in Vermont schools for any consequential purpose."
  •  "While the federal government continues to require the use of subjectively determined, cut-off scores; employing such metrics lacks scientific foundation. ... 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 State Board's "Statement and Resolution" is a remarkably intelligent statement about practices in assessment and accountability. Will it be fobbed off by less courageous states as just one little exceptional place up there in New England? Not really relevant? Peculiar? That would be a shame. Or will it be seen as the knowing and progressive document that it is, worthy of serving as a model for policy statements across the nation?

Watch for the press release on Tuesday.

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Gene V Glass

Gene V Glass is a lecturer in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education of San José State University. He is also currently a Senior Researcher at the National Educ...