Roper: Vermont education ‘reforms’ not helping test scores

By Rob Roper

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP), aka the Nation’s Report Card, scores are out, and, sadly, it seems I write this same blog post every two years: scores dropped again for Vermont students in all categories. From the Agency of Education’s Fact Sheet:

  • VT students scored above the national average in reading at the fourth and eighth grade levels, and in mathematics at the eighth grade level in 2019.
  • VT students scored below the national average in Grade Four Mathematics in 2019.
  • VT students scored (significantly) lower across grades, subject and subgroups in 2019 compared to 2017. Mathematics scores for National School Lunch Program (NSLP) students in grades Four and Eight and those of White students in Grade Eight remained unchanged compared to 2017.

The report also highlights the continuing and growing trend in which high performing students are doing better and lower performing students are doing worse – an education inequality gap, if you will.

At some point, perhaps politicians will realize (or if they already realize it, start to care) that this is the inevitable result of a one-size-fits-all system. The “one-size” is inevitably tailored to fit the kids with the most vocal, involved, politically connected, well educated, affluent parents. The rest are either lucky or stuck in a school that doesn’t meet their needs.

The other continuing red flag from these scores is Vermont’s growing expenditures and regulations surrounding in universal, “high quality” preschool. Lawmakers passed universal Pre-K in 2007, and since then more and more kids are matriculating through that system to the 4th grade, where the scores have steadily declined. The trend in declining scores pre-dates 2007, and there’s not enough data to say if the continued decline is caused by or coincident to pre-k, but it’s certainly worth more study.

What we can say for sure though is promises that “high quality” universal pre-k would increase scores and close the achievement gap have not born out.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain

9 thoughts on “Roper: Vermont education ‘reforms’ not helping test scores

  1. Economist Art Woolf puts it succinctly.

    https://vtdigger.org/2019/11/06/woolf-vermont-schools-high-cost-average-quality/?is_wppwa=true&wpappninja_cache=friendly

    I know many of you are sick of hearing it, but I’ll say it again – give parents the life vest of School Choice Tution Vouchers before the education ship sinks all together. Immediately save 20% in education costs on a per student basis.

    At this point, what do you have to lose? – but the chance for parents to improve themselves and their children by choosing the school they believe best meets their needs.

    After all, while you may be sick of hearing me rail on behalf of School Choice, I’m sick of listening to everyone blame everyone else for Vermont’s high education cost and poor performance. It’s time to put up or shut up.

  2. Could this nightmare for students and families be resulting from Act 77 in VT, aka Proficiency-Based Learning disaster elsewhere:
    https://hechingerreport.org/documenting-maines-failure-to-implement-proficiency-based-education/
    https://hechingerreport.org/vermonts-all-over-the-map-effort-to-switch-schools-to-proficiency-based-learning/

    First got wind of it when reading local free papers about this scandal – one of many involving career academician Two-Rivers District superintendent Meg Powden refusing to release secret speech delivered to teaching faculty to school board(s)?
    “The Chester Telegraph has obtained a copy of the speech via state law, which is available online.
    https://www.cavendishconnects.com/blog/2019/10/31/my-way-or-the-highway-powdens-speech-releasedvoicing-concern

    Have no other speeches to compare it to but included what appear to be threats to teachers not fully aligned or making sufficient progress.

    Excerpt from “Welcoming Speech”: “The harm you have caused has impacted our students…I don’t know why you’re being resistant. We’ve never had a conversation about it and we never will. Personalized and proficiency-based education is our work. If this is work you will not do because you cannot wholeheartedly embrace it… I am asking you to leave our supervisory union and find a public school that will be a better match. I don’t think you’ll find one in Vermont, because this is state work, this is local work.”

    This and the numerous online reports, other ongoing controversies, lawsuits and various hyperlocal issues make this ‘educator’ appear incompetent and also unhinged…families and students deserve better. Unsure if this is common bc I don’t read alot of local school issues.

    https://vermontjournal.com/featured-articles/trsu-reconfirms-powden-two-year-contract-despite-protest/

    • Smartphone is blocked by your new server…asks for a valid email and also a few nuisence messages such as messages are full?

  3. Let’s be clear, fewer students with the no reduction in the teacher population means class sizes are smaller giving teachers more time with each pupil resulting in students not meeting national standards? Am I missing something??

  4. I caution against reading too much into the assessment (Rob’s or the AOE’s) that “The report also highlights the continuing and growing trend in which high performing students are doing better and lower performing students are doing worse – an education inequality gap, if you will.”

    For 8th graders the report shows that in 2000 27% of students were below proficient while 25% were proficient, in 2017 24% were below proficient while 29% were proficient, and for 2019 25% were below proficient while 27% were proficient.

    Yes, the ‘advanced student cohort increased from 6% in 2000 to 11% in 2019. But the low 6% number from 2000 is listed as an anomaly, the 2017 number was 10% and the 2019 national average is 10%.

    https://education.vermont.gov/sites/aoe/files/documents/edu-math-8-naep-2019-vt.pdf

    • First, keep in mind that fewer the 5% of Vermont’s total 4th & 8th grade enrolled students are included in the NAEP assessments and students taking the tests do so voluntary. The more indicative performance assessments are the AOE tests required of all Vermont students.
      https://education.vermont.gov/data-and-reporting/educational-performance

      Basically, then, the data shows that for the last ten years half of Vermont’s students don’t meet grade level standards while 90%+- of them graduate anyway.

      Only 40% of Vermont high school graduates go on to college. Only 24% of Vermont high school graduates finish a 4 year college degree program.

      Vermont’s cost per student has doubled over the last ten years while enrollments have declined 20%.

      The percentage of Vermont students with behavioral disabilities is the highest in the nation.

  5. Good Lord…. The referenced fact sheet written by AOE staff includes some of the most poorly written grammatical missives imaginable. Just read the 1st paragraph. Never mind the last scores reported on page 5 for Students without Disabilities in which the change from a 2017 Reading score of 282 to a 2019 Reading score of 277 represents a 5↑ (increase). Hello.

    And these folks are teaching our children.

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