VT Education “Reforms” Not Helping Test Scores

November 5, 2019

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

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Black November 5, 2019 at 4:29 pm

When I saw WCAX’s reporting on this story I was mostly annoyed by one fact – no mention was made of what the test scores actually mean. It is all well and good to say that Vermont scored x points above the national average but without the context of the scale being used that is meaningless information.

For example, they reported that Vermont’s score on one of the test was around 252 (I forget the exact number) and this was above the national average. Sounds good, right? But what if the “passing score” or score that indicates actual proficiency is 300? Suddenly that 252 score just means Vermont students didn’t fail as badly as the average student, not that they actually did well.

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gdp November 9, 2019 at 4:23 pm

As SCOTUS pointed out in Rodriguez where it rejected a Federal right to education, the failure to correlate quality to expenditure is fatal in the outcome, either in right, expectation or actual fact. If only the Vermont Supreme Court had followed Rodriguez in its Brigham I ratio decidendi, Vermont’s formal educational matrix would be far exceeding its ongoing delusional expectation.

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