Find out how your school performed in 2016

Test results for each school in the state were recently released by the Agency of Education. Last spring was the second time that the state’s students took the online Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC tests, but the first year that scores will count. From this point forward, the data will be used to determine if a school is meeting proficiency standards.

VTDigger has created visualizations of aggregated testing data by grade, by school and by county. The graphs, maps and charts are designed to help readers see at a glance how students performed on the statewide tests in 2016. Results by school are compared to the statewide average.

Across the state, students in grades 3-8 and 11 take the exam in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. The highest performing schools on the 2016 SBAC’s include: Underhill Central School, Marion Cross School in Norwich, Mount Mansfield High School in Jericho, Barstow Memorial School in Chittenden, Dummerston schools, White River School in Hartford, Montgomery Central School, Newton School in Stratford and South Burlington High School.

On the other end of the spectrum, the schools that performed poorly in one or more grades or subjects include: Newbury Elementary, John F. Kennedy Elementary in Winooski, Cabot School, Winooski Middle School, Troy School, Richford Junior/Senior High, Rochester School, Randolph Union High School #2.

Some of Vermont’s highest performing and lowest performing schools are from the same counties: Chittenden, Franklin, Orange and Windsor.

Schools that performed best in the state were from Chittenden, Franklin, Orange, Windsor and Windham counties. Chittenden and Windsor had the most high performing schools in both subjects.

Low performing schools were in Chittenden, Franklin, Orange, Orleans, Washington and Windsor counties.

It’s important to note that until several more years of test score data is made available, it is difficult to determine if a group of students is outperforming others because of instruction or the makeup of a given class.

At least three years of test results are needed to analyze trends, according to Michael Hock, the Agency of Education’s director of assessment.

“This three-year rule is particularly important in Vermont’s small schools where one really bright student can tip the average and make it look like there was a positive change,” he said, adding that it also works in the opposite direction.

The Agency of Education did not have large enough data sets for 47 very small schools and did not release the information for fear of identifying individual students test scores. Nearly 25 percent of elementary schools and 18 percent of middle schools were too small to report data for the “all students” category, according to the agency.

VTDigger has created a series of interactive charts that allow for an exploration of how schools performed in 2016. The first chart 2016 Smarter Balance Test Scores By Grade shows how all students performed in each public school at each grade level. It also shows how students performed in each school in each county. In addition, VTDigger shows test scores against poverty levels and spending per student.

Proficiency is consistent by town in the lower grades, but as students get older data shows that more students are performing poorly, particularly in mathematics.

The income level of the students also played a role in outcomes. Our analysis of Agency of Education data, revealed that the best performing schools in multiple grades in both subjects had 12 percent or less students on the federal meals program, the free and reduced price lunch plan, an indicator of poverty. The schools that performed best were Underhill Central in Underhill and Marion Cross School in Norwich.

Barstow Memorial (25 percent), Dummerston Schools (33 percent) and South Burlington High School (45 percent) had the highest percent of students living in poverty among the schools that scored highest in English. Montgomery Central School (55 percent) and White River School (46 percent) are among schools that received high math scores and also had high populations of students eligible for free or reduced lunch.

In fact, among the schools that performed the best, students living in poverty did better on the math test than the English test. High performing schools did not have diverse student populations, nor did they have a sizable population of students that were English language learners.

The schools that performed poorly in both subjects by comparison had more low-income, English language learners and special education students than the high performing schools. Seventy-two percent of the students at Troy School receive free and reduced lunch. Almost a quarter of the students at the Winooski schools are English language learners.

There are several instances where low-income students outperformed wealthier peers. More students in poverty in grade three at Enosburg Elementary were proficient in English and math than wealthier students in other schools. Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe has said that AOE will be contacting these schools to find out what teachers have done to improve learning.

Schools with the lowest performance levels had high rates of poverty.

The lowest performing schools on the SBAC spent less per student than schools that had the highest scores.

On average the highest performing schools spent approximately $15,000 per equalized pupil while the lowest scoring schools spent around $13,000.

Teachers at the highest performing schools had an average salary of $65,000. The schools with the best math scores paid teachers an average of $60,000. Among the schools with the lowest scores in English and math, teachers were paid around $52,000 on average.

Each of the lowest performing schools failed to meet federal accountability standards — some for multiple years. It is interesting to note that Mount Mansfield, where the 11th graders tied with South Burlington to score best in the state in mathematics, is in year two of a school improvement plan.

Links to reports:

Data points of note

  • The average spent per equalized pupil from all schools that scored highest on ELA was $15,092. The average spent per equalized pupil from all schools that scored highest on math was $14,671.
  • The average per equalized pupil spending of low performing schools in ELA was $12,735 and in math the average was $12,470. Among the schools that performed well on English the average equalized per pupil spending was $15,092 a difference of $2,357 per pupil. Likewise in math there was a difference of $2,201.
  • The average teacher pay of all schools with the highest ELA scores was: $64,852; the average teacher pay of all schools with the highest math scores was: $59,647.
  • The average teacher salary for schools that performed poorly on English was $52,742 and for math $52,414. Among the schools that performed well on English the average salary was $64,852 – a difference of $12,110. In mathematics, the high performing schools paid an average salary of $59,647 – a difference of $7,233.
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Tiffany Danitz Pache

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  • James Rude

    Excellent data! I love having the ability to sort and look more closely at our local schools. Good job!!

  • Richard M Roderick

    I am sorry to report that Vt. Digger is not proficient in Vermont geography. while BMU is correctly placed on the map in Orange county it is listed as being in Rutland county.

    • Diane Zeigler

      Thank you for your patience. This has been fixed

  • Mark Keefe

    Congratulations to the students, staff and teachers at Mount Mansfield Union High School for high scores in both English and Math – outstanding!

  • John McClaughry

    Thanks to Tiffany and Digger for making this information available. That said, I have some problems with presenting a bar chart with a range of scores from 2350 to 2500 by not showing the bottom 2300. In a typical chart, the best school looks like it has six times better results thanf the poorest school, when in fact it is only about 7 percent better.

    • That’s true, John. When presenting data, it’s often hard to decide how to present the range of values. I was pleased to find that some of the charts had large perceived differences, but, looking closer, the graphing made it look larger than it was.

  • Lee Madden

    Excellent tool. Thanks!

  • Jay Eshelman

    Keep in mind that the listed costs per student are State qualified and much lower than the actual school budgets approved by voters. In my district, Westminster for example, our K-6 cost per equalized student is listed at about $16,000/student while the actual total budget cost per student is well over $21,000.

    Westminster has an average number of students on free & reduced lunches and you can judge the school’s performance for yourselves…..which may explain why so many of our local voters continue to discount ‘high stakes performance testing’ as discriminatory, of limited value or, at least, irrelevant.

    One data feature that was available on the State’s previous NECAP data is the Performance-Over-Time feature, and I hope Digger can figure a way to replicate the over-time comparisons. Watching the performance of a given class from one year to the next is very enlightening.

    • Stephen Farrington

      I will add, Jay, that even the actual school budgets approved by voters are also artificially low, because they do not include the cost of pensions for public school teacher, which are funded from Vermont’s general fund and are about 5% of total education costs; costs excluded from town budgets and per pupil calculations. Independent schools, whose students seem to have performed admirably well, fully account for these cost in their operating budgets and still receive less than the state average public school tuition for educating state-funded students from tuitioning towns. Both students and taxpayers get a much better deal from Vermont’s frugal, innovative, independent schools than they do from their over-regulated, union monopolized counterparts.

  • Gerry Silverstein

    The data in this article is very valuable, and Digger has done a great service to citizens by providing this information. The one request I would like to make is for Digger either to provide a sampling of the type of test questions that go along with the test scores presented, or provide links to where those questions can be viewed on-line (if that is a possibility).

    For me, without knowing what type of questions are asked, it is difficult to appreciate the exact meaning of a high score and a low score.

  • Why do we have such a low threshold for what can be posted? This is a serious and costly problem for all Vermonters.

  • Low income, low education always will equal Low income and future low education.
    We need to find a solution that holds parents accountable. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, poor life choices affect generations.

    • Steve, living in poverty makes raising children far more difficult. When you can just write a check to pay for oil when it’s delivered, or a year in advance is very easy. Scraping together the food dollars, waiting for the 29th day after the bill, getting a money order – these things make paying attention to, reading to, playing with one’s children very much harder. Generational poverty is not “choice”. And, as you are well aware, blaming those trapped in poverty will have no affect on their income levels. In fact, “holding parents accountable” suggests you have not many parents, nor, perhaps, been one yet!

  • Matt Young

    I wonder if the Vermont department of education would offer data that showcases the incredible success many children experience when they move from the homogenized one size fits all public school setting to a small independent school. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the Vermont department of education will not under any circumstances recognize the value of independent schools, furthermore the state education monopoly constantly attacks these wonderful, life changing schools. Shouldn’t our children be more important than the teachers union?!

    • Stephen Farrington

      Well put, Matt Young. Independent schools producing positive student outcomes should be studied, and their models replicated in public schools. The Vermont education establishment is blessed and fortunate to have in the independent school community a valuable laboratory of innovation that has been operating for over 100 years finding the most cost effective ways to deliver life-changing educational experiences to students of diverse backgrounds and needs. One would think the State Board of Ed and the State Agency of Ed would want to apply the lessons learned from this laboratory to evidence-based improvement of public schools, rather than endeavoring to force successes into the lesser performing mold of over-regulation and over-generalization. Go figure.

  • John Hess

    I’m having technical issues with this page: Only the left 2/3 of the article is visible; the right 1/3 is chopped off. I tried to report the error with this page, but even that box doesn’t show the bottom where it can be submitted. So I am reporting it here. Thanks!

    • Bob Rosenfeld

      Thanks for all this work. It would be easier for me to make sense of these graphs if the school or class size was given, especially because of Michael Hock’s comment on the difficuty of interpreting scores from small groups.

    • John, try reducing the overall size of the page by clicking on the menu at the upper right corner of your screen.

  • A wealth of data does not enrich understanding unless the core of the data is valuable.
    The AVERAGE score tells us little if a few top scores or low scores strongly affect the average. They can. A class with few middle scores, and a group of top and a group of low scores is badly described by an average. Test scores are NOT the kind of data that should be compared with percentages or ratios. You can only say scores are higher or lower.
    Test scores are useful indicators of learning success. But grabbing averages for conclusions about test scores is as fraught with peril as believing that correlation is causation.
    As rich as the data pool at VT Digger appears (bravo!), it is nonetheless still the shallow end. There are better ways to display this kind of data (John Tukey for example shows a graphic of each score, with the top score, the bottom score, the 25%, 75%, and the median. Or a stem-and-leaf with every score.) Dig deep! Don’t hit your head on the bottom.

  • Joe Berry

    There are many other, more appropriate, measures of school effectiveness and worth than standardized test. The complete focus on that is disheartening to me as a 45 year educator.

  • sandra bettis

    Schools can put out political signs???