Vermont’s Enlightened State Board of Education

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The Vermont State Board of Education recently released a more than reasonable “Statement on Assessment and Accountability” that I certainly wish would be read and adopted by other leaders across other states.

They encourage their educators to “make use of diverse indicators of student learning and strengths,” when measuring student learning and achievement, the growth of both over time, and especially when using such data to inform their practice. The use of multiple and diverse indicators (i.e., including traditional and non-traditional tests, teacher-developed assessments, and student work samples) is in line with the professional measurement and assessment standards. At the same time, however, they must also “document the opportunities schools provide to further the goals of equity and [said] growth.”

As per growth on standardized tests in particular, and particularly in the case of value-added models (VAMs), they write that such tests and test uses cannot “adequately capture the strengths of all children, nor the growth that can be ascribed to individual teachers. And 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.” This too aligns with the standards of the profession.

They continue, noting that “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.” Hence, they also put forth a set of guiding principles they, as a state, are to use to inform their assessment and accountability goals (and mandates).

The principle that should be of most interest to readers of this blog?

  • “Value-added scores – Although the federal government is encouraging states to use value added scores for teacher, principal and school evaluations, this policy direction is not appropriate. A strong body of recent research has found that there is no valid method of calculating “value-added” scores which compare pass rates from one year to the next, nor do current value-added models adequately account for factors outside the school that influence student performance scores. Thus, other than for research or experimental purposes, this technique will not be employed in Vermont schools for any consequential purpose.”

See also their other related principles as also very important, summarized briefly here:

  • All tests must have evidence validating their particular uses. In other words, tests may not be used for things that make sense in theory or may seem convenient. Rather, research evidence must support their uses, otherwise valid inferences cannot be made, or more importantly accepted as valid.
  • When such test scores are reported via press and media outlets, more than just test scores, hierarchical rankings of test scores, and the like are to be reported, given the people of Vermont more holistic understandings about schools in their state.
  • Educators must actively and consciously prevent “excessive testing” as it “diverts resources and time away from learning while providing little additional value for accountability purposes.”
  • “While the federal government continues to require the use of subjectively determined, cut-off scores; employing such metrics lacks scientific foundation…Claims to the contrary are technically indefensible and their application [is to] be [considered] unethical.”
  • “So that [they] can more validly and meaningfully describe school- and state-level progress…[they also endorse] reporting performance in terms of scale scores and standard deviations rather than percent proficient” indicators.
  • “[A]ny report on a school based on the state’s EQS standards must also include a report on the adequacy of resources provided by or to that school in light of the school’s unique needs. Such evaluations shall address the adequacy of resources [and] the judicious use of resources.”
  • In terms of assessment in general, educators are to always align with and follow “the aforementioned guidelines and principles adopted by the American Educational Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the American Psychological Association.

See also their list of resolution at the end of this document, as also, I can’t think of a better adjective than enlightened!!


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