Monday, July 27, 2015

No Child Left Behind: Vermont's Response

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

By U.S. Department of Education,
via Wikimedia Commons
Some material in this post is dated but the content of a memorandum written by a state official to parents and caregivers isn't. It is one of those "keepers".

As you probably know, under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, the U. S. Department of Education (U. S. DoED) requires teacher evaluations to include student test scores. It has narrowed the curriculum and placed a focus on teaching to the test.

States have an option of applying for a waiver from a number of terms in the No Child Left Behind Law but if the U. S. DoED denies the waiver, the state is required to send a letter to parents in any school not having 100% of its students meeting the standard, informing them that their school was "failing" This is a potent stick.

Washington was the first state to lose its waiver but five states — California, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Vermont — operated public schools without a waiver this past year.

Of these, Vermont is the only state that refused to bother with the waiver process. In early August, Vermont Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe, sent a remarkable and clear, child- and learner-centered memorandum to Vermont parents and caregivers about this decision on NCLB.

The memorandum describes reasons why Vermont is a very good public education system, one committed to improving. In the memorandum, Secretary Holcombe,describes NCLB, discusses alternatives to NCLB requirements, points out what is wrong with a single measure of proficiency, and provides a list of questions that parents and caregivers can ask that will yield evidence about a child's progress in school.

The memorandum is a pleasure to read--spirited, wise, respectful and informed by research. It is properly focused on kids and their families/caregivers (and those who work with them as teachers). It is about the potential and possibilities of all students and what schools should be like in order for students to realize them, all in a system that provides students the opportunities of a full and rich curriculum.

This stirring memorandum is about growing minds; not mindlessness.

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