Published: January 6, 2005
Standards and Accountability: Vermont has adopted clear and specific standards in English, mathematics, and science in all grade levels. But the American Federation of Teachers did not deem its social studies/history standards to be clear and specific.
The state has exams based on its standards at the elementary and high school levels in English and at the high school level in math. Vermont uses a variety of test formats including multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response questions. But student portfolios are now a local option.
Vermont holds schools accountable by publishing report cards and assigning ratings for every school. The state provides help to schools that are rated low-performing.
In addition, it imposes sanctions, such as school closure, on consistently low-performing or failing schools. The state does not offer rewards to high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Like many other states, Vermont would earn a better grade for this category if its licensing requirements for middle school teachers caught up with those for high school teachers.
The state requires high school teachers to pass subject-matter tests and major in the subjects they plan to teach. But middle school teachers need only have minors. The state is in the process of adopting tests for middle-grades content areas.
Vermont’s comparatively strong policy of clinical experiences requires each prospective teacher to complete a practicum of at least 60 hours prior to student teaching, as well as 12 weeks of student teaching. But the state leaves a lot of the responsibility for professional support and mentoring for teachers to local districts.
While Vermont requires that new teachers have mentors during their first two years in the classroom, it does not allocate money specifically for mentoring.
The state also fails to earmark funds for professional development.
Vermont has begun to identify low-performing teacher education institutions. The system for identifying such institutions will become more comprehensive over the next few years, as the state adds measures of graduates’ performance in the classroom.
School Climate: Eighth graders in Vermont are more likely than their counterparts in other states to attend schools in which officials report that classroom misbehavior and tardiness are not problems or are only minor problems, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey. Data from that survey regarding physical conflicts and parent involvement in schools also place the state above the national average.
Vermont is one of only 10 states without charter school laws.
Participation in the state’s interdistrict open-enrollment policy is voluntary for districts. Both those facts limit school choice and depress the state’s grade in this category.
The state has a low average elementary-class size, 18.1, according to data from the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey. A higher percentage of students than in most other states attend small schools, especially at the elementary and middle school levels.
Equity: Vermont received the lowest grade of the 50 states in resource equity this year. The state ranks fairly low on all graded equity indicators. Vermont has a positive wealth-neutrality score, which indicates a link between property wealth in the state and the amount of local and state revenue available to districts.
Vermont also has the worst McLoone Index out of the 50 states and the third-worst coefficient of variation.
Both outcomes point to wide disparities in per-pupil spending across districts relative to other states.
Spending: Vermont does much better on education spending than it does on equity. Vermont increased spending for education by more than 7 percent from fiscal 2001 to 2002, and it ranks fourth among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in per-pupil spending—$9,915 in the 2001-02 school year.
More than 85 percent of Vermont students are in districts that spend at or above the national average.
Vermont ranks 15th on the spending index, a measure of how many students in the state are in districts that spend at least the national average, and how far the remaining students fall below that benchmark.
The state ranks first in the nation for the proportion of total taxable resources spent on education, at 5.4 percent.
Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 135