For the first time in 10 Years, Vermont may update its Educational Quality Standards

By Abby Carroll | Community News Service

Guidelines for Vermont school districts’ curricula and reading materials may be changing for the first time in 10 years as a working group looks to push the state education board to put greater focus on racial and ethnic diversity and historically persecuted groups.

The proposed changes to the state’s Educational Quality Standards came last April from the Ethnic and Social Equity Standards Advisory Working Group, a 23-person committee established in 2019 by Act 1, to “recognize fully the history, contributions and perspectives of ethnic groups and social groups” and to eliminate discrimination against those groups in schools.

The group is made up of advocates from those underrepresented communities and stakeholders in education.

Kingdom Access Television

Amanda Garces, director of Policy, Education and Outreach for the Vermont Human Rights Commission

The changes proposed by the group look to make education and classrooms more representative of the full spectrum of cultural identities, more equitable and inclusive and explicitly anti-racist.

Group members said that might look like this: Officials could make sure that students with disabilities, for example, aren’t more severely punished than students without disabilities for the same offenses. Classes might have more discussions about the treatment of all cultures throughout history, and students could be encouraged to talk more about their own experiences with identity. Teachers could consider discussions about when science has served people and when it has been used against certain groups, such as eugenics. And there could be changes to school calendars to give students more days off to celebrate more cultural and religious holidays.

The group’s aim is to transform schools into places where all identities and perspectives are taught, represented and valued.

“The overarching goal is to ensure that all of our students receive equitable, anti-racist, cultural, responsive and anti-discriminatory and inclusive schooling,” said Amanda Garces, the working group’s chair and an official with the state Human Rights Commission. “That’s what we hope our schools become.”

The process of seeing these changes adopted, if the state board of education choses to do so, is a long one. The proposed changes have been in the board’s Educational Quality Standards Rule Update Committee since April 2022 for a review and public comment period. Garces said it could take four to five more months or longer for the state board to have a full meeting and begin the rulemaking process, and legislative committees might also want to take a look at the proposed changes.

That result, if and when it comes, would mark one of the main achievements of an effort that began years ago.

The working group’s mission had its roots in 2017’s Act 54, which commissioned an examination of disparities in state systems between people of different races. Education was one of the five systems legislators found had consistent and pervasive disparities in how people from different races were treated and serviced. Lawmakers concluded that the state needed to do more to serve children from underrepresented backgrounds. That would include reworking curricula to “proudly” represent the contributions made to society by people of color, indigenous people, people with disabilities, women and LGBTQ people, Garces said.

By 2019, when the group had formed, its members wanted to expand upon the work in Act 54 and push for changes in classrooms based on its findings, the experiences of many members of the group and the perspectives of education administration leaders.

The group found a way to do so through the Educational Quality Standards, rules authorized by the State Board of Education that articulate the state’s vision for school objectives and values and provide districts direction in developing curricula and establishing learning materials and practices.

“There’s a chance for school districts to look around and see what is celebrated, what is on the walls, how is the calendar organized,” said Mike McRaith, a member of the working group and the assistant executive director of the Vermont Principals Association.
He added: “If you go into a music class and there are only white men like Bach and Mozart that are on the walls, and those are the only songs that anyone ever learns, it’s like, well, there’s a lot more music in the world, and there’s a lot of other fantastic musicians that we can honor, right?”

A key aspect of the proposal involves aiding students with disabilities. The group wants schools to more widely adopt technology that could make it easier for neurodivergent students to learn.

Group members emphasized that the changes would lift up all students.

“Even though the work is really focused on the wellbeing of all the marginalized students who have been left out for so long, really this benefits all students,” Garces said. “We really want schools to prepare students to work, train and learn in a socially and culturally inclusive space.”

McRaith hopes the changes will be adopted before the working group’s legislative mandate ends in June this year.

“We feel positive that there is momentum there for adoption at the state board level,” McRaith said. “We are optimistic and encouraged by the amount of energy and time that they have dedicated to it.”

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

Images courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR and Kingdom Access Television

7 thoughts on “For the first time in 10 Years, Vermont may update its Educational Quality Standards

  1. An across the board lack of academic proficiency where no child excels is seen as a success in equity driven education. We all know anti racism is rooted in reciprocal racism. Get your kids out!

  2. I’m sure the ‘testing ” will change to match the subject areas most relevant …….one step after another. like prop 5…….with out the word…….and now protect those who harm the children…….see where it goes?
    SCHOOL CHOICE is the only way out of this and its our money………

  3. Maybe they should get better at teaching real history before venturing into fake revisionist history teaching. A school system that has the poor record of Student knowledge retention this one has don’t need to change curriculum to appease the race baiter’s and leftist hate whitey’s. Race relations are going backwards fast thanks to these fools and the obomanation administration. That also includes his puppet potato head biden…

  4. Upgrade in quality?
    Did I miss the new programs for the “gifted and talented” students?

    This is promoting mediocrity with no emphasis on excellence.

    • Exactly Betsy, it’s the lefts “dumbing down to the lowest denominator” policy so those that can’t/won’t learn don’t feel so bad about themselves. This at the expense of students that do want to excel. Home or private school is the only option and the taxpayers should be able to send their tax money to those options. It’s time to put tje NEA and progressive teaching out of business.

  5. Behold!!… The “Dumbing Down” of American & all Vermont children. Focus on WOKE…not reading ,writing and arithmetic. Go ahead and spend $19,400 per child per year. What do you get for it? Vermont children testing below proficiency on standardized tests…and that has been in a slow decline for a decade now…BUT they will hoist that COVID did it….not true, a lie….covid magnified poor results, yes, but poor student results were ongoing well before covid.

    What a great idea! Now they can skip more education essentials – and “GO FOR BROKE”…..”GO WOKE”! Do these morons really think “more WOKE” will increase student test scores? Nope. It is the “Dumbing Down of America”…Liberal style….They will drag & punish the bright, smart and hard working students down to ‘The Lowest Common Denominator” level. Do that and you only get outcomes of “Dumb and Dumber”. I can’t wait to see VT’s SAT scores a few years out. OH! Liberals want to cancel and ban the SAT’s….because they are RACIST :)….no kidding.

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