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Agency of Education criticizes consolidation study

BARRE — The Agency of Education is criticizing a recent study that suggests the consolidation of schools and districts will not save money or provide better outcomes for students. Last week, Daniella Hall and Ian Burfoot-Rochford, researchers at Penn State University, released a study titled “Vermont Educational Reform: A Balanced Approach to Equity and Funding.” Burfoot-Rochford is a Vermont native and a former elementary school teacher in Cabot, while Hall hails from Maine, which in recent years has undergone statewide school district consolidation. The study asserts that, “Drawing from over a century of research on the outcomes of district and school consolidation, we found no evidence that consolidation will produce beneficial or educational outcomes for Vermont.”

Wednesday, the Agency of Education offered a rebuttal — authored by Secretary Rebecca Holcombe and Wendy Geller, data administration director for the agency — that questions the authors’ interpretation of the data they used for their study. “We feel compelled to respond, because with respect to school and district size, this report seriously misrepresents much of the peer-reviewed research on which it claims to be based,” states the rebuttal from the Agency of Education. “Because it overgeneralizes and oversimplifies, we are concerned this report does a disservice to the powerful conversations some of our school boards and communities are having about how they can ensure stability for their schools and children – both the ones they serve today and the ones they are likely to serve in the future.”

Holcombe and Geller note that the research cited in the study actually supports the notion that consolidation will save money and result in better educational outcomes. Continue Reading →

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