Vermont scores an “F” from StudentsFirst

by Robert Maynard

According to a group called StudentsFirst, Vermont is one of the states failing its students when it comes to education:

Currently, Vermont’s education policies do not prioritize great teaching, empowering parents with quality choices, or using resources wisely to raise student achievement. The state trails most of the country when it comes to critical education reforms. Vermont does not evaluate teachers and principals in a meaningful way, and it does not link student performance, educator performance, and district personnel and salary decisions. The state does not provide parents with meaningful information regarding school or teacher performance, and parents have no educational options when their children are trapped in low-performing schools. Vermont has established limited state authority to intervene in low-performing schools and districts, and it should expand governance options available to the state. Finally, Vermont should no longer lock teachers into the existing outdated pension system and should instead offer a more attractive, portable retirement option.

Vermont ranked 46th out of the 50 states with a GPA of .46.  North Dakota ranked the lowest with a GPA of .4.  Vermont scores a “F” when it comes to “elevating teaching”:

Vermont lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to ensuring effective teachers and principals are identified, retained, and rewarded by districts. Vermont does not require districts to evaluate educators meaningfully; student academic growth does not play a significant role in evaluations and there are no consequences for ineffectiveness. Seniority is permitted to drive personnel decisions, allowing other states to pass Vermont in efforts to elevate the teaching profession. If Vermont wants to strengthen its teaching corps, it must treat them like the professionals they are by establishing meaningful evaluations tied significantly to student growth and requiring districts to use teacher effectiveness as the driving factor in recruitment, placement, layoff, tenure, and compensation decisions.

We score a complete ZERO when it comes to empowering parents:

All families should be able to choose among quality schools, and no student should be forced to attend a low-performing school or be taught by an ineffective teacher. To this end, Vermont must empower it parents with information and options. First, Vermont should publish school report cards that give each school an A-F academic performance grade. The state can also empower parents by giving them access to teacher performance information and notifying them when their children are placed with ineffective teachers. Vermont must increase the number of high-quality school choice options by allowing for public charter schools and creating a publicly funded scholarship program for students in failing public schools to attend private schools.

We score a “D” when it comes to “spending wisely”:

Although Vermont can exercise limited interventions in low-performing school districts, the state must significantly strengthen its ability to ensure that resources are being spent wisely and that districts are focused on improving student outcomes. State law should allow for mayoral control of poor-performing districts and full state control of low-performing schools and districts. The law should also permit governance changes when school districts mismanage resources. Vermont should link spending data to academic achievement to fully enable data-driven decisionmaking. Vermont should also relax class-size restrictions past the third grade. The state also needs to establish a portable retirement plan that will provide career flexibility and retirement security for all teachers.

Perhaps it is time to take another look at the Ethan Allen Institute’s policy study “School Children First.”  Expanding our tuitioning program would be worthwhile as well.


4 thoughts on “Vermont scores an “F” from StudentsFirst

  1. All will be wonderful now that we have a new Secretary of Education, a Ms Holcombe. Lives in Norwich, all the right political connections. Norwich, a reliable one party town, hasn’t voted for a Republican in many years.

    Ms Holcombe is head of teacher training at Dartmouth, no less! Wonder what her thoughts are on charter schools and local control?

    Somehow, I doubt that the NEA/VEA have anything to sweat, I expect that she has been thoroughly vetted and found to be a perfectly acceptable hack.

  2. I’m a bit surprised at TNR touting more State control. You should organize & finance at the local level (screw the judiciary). Then each locale will get what it deserves – good, bad, or ugly – without affecting the other locales.

    • We’re not “toutng” anything, merely reporting on the results of this analysis of educational quality in states around the nation.

  3. I would argue the reason our schools are not performing as well as they should is because the State is in control of everything. More Local Control and Less State Control would address several of the problems listed above. If anyone reading this has ever been on a school board you will understand the local board meeting agendas are set by the Supervisory Union. The S.U.’s answer directly to the Commissioner of Education.

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