BRATTLEBORO -- As the number of states receiving waivers from No Child Left Behind continues to pile up, Vermont is moving ahead with its plan to release the most recent adequate yearly progress reports for schools as required under the federal education law.
The U.S. Department of Education has granted waivers to 32 states, and the District of Columbia, allowing the states to come up with their own measurements for student growth and progress.
But Vermont withdrew its request for the waiver earlier this year, saying that the waiver process was too costly and time consuming for a small state like Vermont, and that it would have forced the state to come up with the same strict teacher evaluations tied to test results that No Child Left Behind demands.
So as other states have been allowed to back away from the annual yearly progress reports, Vermont will release results on how schools did on the most recent tests next week.
"The state Board of Education decided there were too many strings attached to the waiver so we are obligated to stay under the same rules of No Child Left Behind," said Vermont Department of Education Director of Assessment Michael Hock. "We have been waiting five years for Congress to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but until that happens Vermont is subject to the same rules that are in place right now."
When Congress first passed No Child Left Behind in 2001 critics argued
The law made no accommodations for students with disabilities, students who did not speak English, or for low income students who are struggling with issues outside of the reach of the eight hour school day.
So Hock said that while education department officials are reluctant to report next week that a majority of the schools in Vermont "failed" to meet the goals, the federal law requires that the annual yearly progress report be released.
"We are likely going to end up identifying most schools in the state before we are all done with this," Hock said. "Vermont has had assessments even before No Child Left Behind, but we would like to tie the accountability to realistic expectations."
Windham Southeast Superintendent Ron Stahley said he was hoping the state would have followed through in its bid to get the U.S. Department of Education waiver.
Especially with the 2014 proficiency ceiling looming, and the prospect that all of the district’s schools will be labeled as failing, Stahley said teachers and administrators have grown to accept the annual progress reports as a necessary evil.
Stahely said the annual NECAP tests continue to be useful, and WSESU administrators use the test scores to focus in on children who need help.
All of the schools, he said, have been able to show growth among groups of students, and even though Congress has been unable to come up with a more realistic education plan, Vermont schools are just gong to have to grin and bear it when the reports are released.
"We take the tests seriously, but what we don’t take seriously is the arbitrary ceiling that sets up unrealistic expectations," Stahely said. "We see steady progress and we are going to continue concentrating on interventions that do well. We are going to continue doing what we think is right for kids. That is not going to change."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.