Stephan Morse

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Education officials seek additional staff

MONTPELIER — Education officials are calling on lawmakers to support the mandates they impose by adding additional staff to the Agency of Education and the State Board of Education. Members of the State Board of Education offered testimony before the House Education Committee on Monday calling for staff members to support the many educational initiatives imposed by the General Assembly, from school district mergers and universal Pre-K education to dual enrollment and personalized learning plans. “In our opinion, the Agency (of Education) is suffering with inadequate staff,” said Stephan Morse, chairman of the State Board of Education, who discussed the staff reductions the agency has faced during the past eight years. Since fiscal year 2008, the agency has lost 43 positions, falling from 213 to the current staffing level of 170. At the same time, 70 percent of agency staff are paid for with federal funds, which limits the scope of work they may perform, Morse said. Continue Reading →

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Federal lawmakers eye changes to standardized testing in schools

WASHINGTON — Education officials in Vermont are pleased with a step taken by Congress to reduce the high-stakes standardized testing provisions under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Thursday, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions gave preliminary approval to the Every Child Achieves Act, which would give more authority to states to decide how to evaluate their schools, and would replace the current law that has led to nearly every school in Vermont to be identified as failing. U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., who serves on the Senate committee, said the annual standardized tests taken by Vermont’s children in grades three through 11 do not fully capture what a child is learning in school. “I think it is wrong to judge schools solely on the basis of narrow tests. We have to work on what kind of criteria we really need,” Sanders said. Continue Reading →

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State takes another step away from standardized testing

MONTPELIER — Vermont will not use its newly implemented standardized testing system to evaluate the state’s K-12 schools. Earlier this week, the State Board of Education voted to not use the results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium — or SBAC — as the basis for its annual report on school performance to the federal government. The SBAC, a computerized test that students — many for the first time — began taking Tuesday, replaces the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, which for years provided the annual data on school performance required under the federal “No Child Behind” act, often referred to derisively by educators and administrators as “No Child Left Untested.”

In the spring of 2014, nearly 30 schools took the SBAC test as part of a pilot program. Aside from this handful of students, most will be seeing the new test for the first time this spring. In theory, the SBAC test will do a better job of measuring the Common Core State Standards adopted by the state in 2010. Continue Reading →

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