Tests show many high-schoolers aren’t on track for college

Across the state, students in all grades who took standardized tests last spring had an easier time showing they were proficient in English than in math. In many Vermont high schools, students aren’t ready for college coursework in math, and some aren’t ready for college English either.

Vermont is part of a group of 15 states that use the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test that measures students’ performance against the Common Core standards in English and math in grades three through eight and 11. The standards are expectations for what a student should know and be able to do at each grade level. Students who reach a certain score are deemed proficient. For 11th-graders, that means they are ready for college level coursework in the subject.

VTDigger analyzed schools’ average scores to see where students are performing at the level set for proficiency. We found that younger students performed better than older students in math. Results were mixed between private and public schools in both English and math, and they were unrelated to the school’s price tag in high school.

This analysis is based only on the results for schools that had enough students taking the SBAC to report scores without violating federal privacy laws. The data came from the Agency of Education.

More than half of Vermont’s third-graders, who have been studying with the Common Core standards since they started school, did meet both the English and math goals for proficiency.

The majority of students in half of all elementary and middle schools in Vermont were proficient in English. That wasn’t the case for 11th-graders, though. Just under a quarter of the high schools were hitting the proficiency mark for English.

Students performed much worse in math as they moved up in grades. While fourth-graders approached math proficiency, every other grade found it to be an elusive target. Of those reporting results, only seven high schools had scores indicating the average student was ready for college-level math.

Thirty-six percent of all students attending Vermont colleges and universities have to take remedial courses to catch up, according to the Center for American Progress.

Vermont doesn’t collect statewide information on how many of its graduates have to take remedial courses in college. But at the Community College of Vermont, 50 percent of Vermont students take at least one remedial course, according to Tricia Coats, director of government affairs for the Vermont State Colleges.

Vermont sets the bar for proficiency at an appropriate level, according to Achieve Inc., a nonprofit that works with states to ensure standards and tests are rigorous and aligned. The organization reached that conclusion after comparing state results with the National Assessment of Educational Progress results.

Almost all of the states participating in the SBAC assessment, including Vermont, use the same standard for proficiency in order to give a high school diploma the same value wherever a student lives.

Public versus private schools

Previously, VTDigger reported which public schools performed best and worst on the SBACs by comparing them to the statewide average scores in both subjects. This analysis is focused on which schools’ average score is at the proficient level in each subject area.

The analysis includes the seven private schools that have enough publicly tuitioned students participating in the SBACs to report their scores. They are the four traditional academies — Burr and Burton Academy, The Lyndon Institute, St. Johnsbury Academy and Thetford Academy — as well as The Sharon Academy, Long Trail School and The Village School of North Bennington, an elementary school.

In grades three and four, more than half of Vermont’s students were proficient in math. The largest gulf between proficiency and the statewide average scores on the math SBACs appears in grades four through eight and high school. In the schools where students didn’t reach proficiency in math in these grades, most performed at achievement level two, out of four. That means they have only some of the knowledge and skills they need to move up a grade. In high school it means they may need support to be ready for college coursework. Students scoring at levels three and four are considered proficient.

Unlike many of their public school counterparts, the third-grade class at North Bennington was not able to collectively score proficient. However, in grades four and six students surpassed many of their peers by scoring proficient. (The Agency of Education did not publish scores for grade five because so few students took the exam in that grade.)

Some of the students at other private schools struggled with math too. The seventh-grade classes at The Sharon Academy and Thetford Academy failed to meet the proficiency checkmark. Thetford’s eighth-grade class also fell short of proficient. Like many of their public school counterparts, these students performed, on average, at a level that meant they had some knowledge and skills but still needed to learn more to perform grade-level tasks.

Reaching proficiency in high school math was a tough task for Vermont students. Considering the average scores for each school, only seven schools scored at least 2628 — the cutoff for proficiency — on the test. Two were private schools, and the other five were public:

  • Sharon Academy students led the way with an average score of 2706.
  • Long Trail students followed, scoring 2647 on average.
  • Students at South Burlington High School scored 2646.
  • Mount Mansfield Union High School students also scored 2646.
  • Stowe High School has the next highest average score, with 2644.
  • Middlebury High School students scored 2640.
  • Essex High School students averaged 2632.

All seven of these high schools’ students also scored proficient in English (the cutoff score was 2583), and they beat the statewide average (2597), which was a higher bar than proficiency.

Lower-income students, as a group, tend to score lower on standardized tests. Vermont’s high-performing high schools had relatively few low-income students except for South Burlington (where 45 percent of students are on the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, or FRL, an indicator of poverty) and Middlebury High (with 30 percent on FRL).

Sixteen percent of The Sharon Academy’s students were low-income; Stowe High School had 13 percent; and Mount Mansfield Union High had 12 percent. Long Trail School has not participated in the federal meals program.

None of the other private high schools reporting scores was able to meet proficiency in math. At Lyndon Institute, students scored on average at the lowest achievement level, meaning they will not be ready for college without “substantial support.”

Students at Burr and Burton Academy fell far short of math proficiency. Scores at Burr and Burton, St. Johnsbury Academy and Thetford Academy were within the second level of achievement.

Of the public high schools reporting SBAC scores, eight scored so low that the students won’t be ready for college math without “substantial support.” Those schools were: Otter Valley Union High School, Randolph High School, Springfield High School, Whitcomb Junior/Senior High School, Blue Mountain High School, Mount Abraham Union High School, Black River High School and Winooski High School.

All but two of these low-performing schools had more low-income students than the statewide average. Randolph and Mount Abraham were the exceptions, where 37 percent and 33 percent of the students, respectively, took part in the federal meals program. The statewide FRL average last year was 38 percent.

On the flip side 33 public high schools had students scoring proficient or above in English. Of these schools, six had average student scores at the proficient level but did not reach the statewide average for 11th grade English, which was a higher bar than proficiency.

Of the schools that reported SBAC scores, the two top-performing schools in grade 11 English were the same private schools that outdid public schools in math, followed by more than 30 public schools meeting and exceeding proficiency: The Sharon Academy (2704) and Long Trail School (2694), followed by South Burlington (2675), Stowe (2669) and Mount Mansfield (2667). These high-performing schools do not have a lot of low-income students. Only South Burlington has a higher percent of students on the federal meals program (45 percent) than the statewide average.

Long Trail School has said it didn’t participate in the program because it didn’t have a cafeteria, but is building one and plans to apply for federal meals funding.

Long Trail’s educational program is built on the international baccalaureate curriculum, which is available in public schools in other states like Advanced Placement courses. The curriculum is focused on critical thinking and intercultural awareness. Numerous studies have shown that students who study the IB curriculum have higher SAT/ACT scores, and their grades in college are better than their peers in the general student population.

Spending versus results

VTDigger also looked at what kind of impact spending might have on test results. We compared the public high schools with the most and least expensive allowable tuition in Vermont.

The most expensive schools that had enough students reporting results are: Proctor Junior/Senior High School, Springfield High School, Cabot School, Winooski High School and Middlebury High School.

High school students at Middlebury, Cabot and Proctor handily surpassed both the proficiency threshold and the statewide average in English. But students at Springfield and Winooski fell far short of both. All have a similar percentage of low-income students, and Winooski also has a significant number of students for whom English is not their first language.

As for math, Middlebury students were the only ones to meet proficiency. Students at the rest of the schools are not ready for college level math.

The public schools that had the lowest tuition costs were Mount Mansfield Union High School in Jericho, Williamstown Middle/High School, Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, Milton High School and Poultney High School.

Students at each of these high schools, except BFA-Fairfax, were proficient in English, but only the students at Mount Mansfield nailed the math test and are ready for college level work in both subjects. A Mount Mansfield education, at a cost of $13,469, could be the best deal in Vermont when it comes to test scores.

VTDigger used “allowable tuition” for fiscal year 2017 — also known as net cost per pupil — instead of the equalized per-pupil spending number to determine the most and least expensive high schools because it comes closest to what is spent on a student, according to Brad James, education finance manager at the Agency of Education.

“Allowable tuition is calculated by dividing actual allowable expenditures by the full-time equivalency of students,” according to the agency. The equalized per-pupil amount is normed and weighted and often includes “phantom students” that are added to the rolls to cushion schools when enrollment declines.

While school districts can set tuition wherever they like, the decision is influenced by the fact that if they set it too high it is harder to attract tuition students and if they set it too low they may end up subsidizing some students.

The high schools with the highest allowable tuition are not included in this graphic analysis. Rochester High School costs $20,000 a year and does not have a high enough school population to publish SBAC results.

Hanover High School in New Hampshire, which some Vermont students attend, uses the SAT instead of the SBAC in grade 11.

Tuition costs (for day students) for the private high schools in this story are:

  • Burr and Burton Academy: $16,250 (13 percent FRL)
  • Lyndon Institute: $16,825 (29 percent FRL)
  • St. Johnsbury Academy: $16,315 (22 percent FRL)
  • Thetford Academy: $17,998 (16 percent FRL)
  • The Sharon Academy: $14,773 (16 percent FRL)
  • Long Trail School: $17,986 (no students on FRL)
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Tiffany Danitz Pache

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  • Moshe Braner

    Thank you for digging into this! Some things never change. Two decades ago I analyzed some standardized test scores from 4th and 8th grades across the state, and similarly found no correlation between spending and scores. I also did not find any correlation between 4th and 8th grades paired by being in the same school, meaning, there were no “good schools” or “bad schools”. I did find a correlation between scores of the same grade a year apart within the same school – different students, but presumably often the same teacher. Moral: some teachers are better than others.

  • Bill Mathis

    A few wonky kinds of things (1)The best long-term measure of the state’s performance is the NAEP. We have changed state tests too many times to have good trend data. (2) Score comparisons should be done with the total scale score. Percent proficient hides growth- or loss. (3) The tests have poor vertical alignment so cross grade level comparisons are not too strong. (4) college and career ready? for what college? what career? (5) Comparing achievement with spending is tricky especially when socioeconomic status is a “third variable.” (6) Evaluating schools calls for more than just dollars and test scores. But money matters and it matters most for poor kids. (7) In national (and international extrapolations), Vermont is always a high performer ranging from first to eighth depending on test and grade level. (8) In the national research, publics and privates score about the same. 9Habitual critics of schools will find doom and despair in this story and supporters will be more positive.

    • Lucas Barrett

      A few more wonky things (1) the Y axis of these graphs do not accurately depict the difference between the lowest and highest performers. The Y axis does not start at 0 and is not labeled to indicate the actual degree of variance. It looks like the lowest school scores a 10% while the top school scores about a 90% when in reality it is 2359 to 2535, a difference of only 7%. If we try to teach math the same way the media presents it we have an uphill battle on our hands. (2) The headline is very misleading because nowhere in this article do we compare the math readiness of Vermont students to any other State or time frame.

      • Moshe Braner

        Right. The purpose of a graph is to visually tell a simple quantitative story. If something is twice as big it should LOOK twice as big in the graph, no more and no less. Axes that do not start at zero (and not labeled to boot!) tell a distorted version of the story, thus such graphs are DISinformation.

    • Re: “The best long-term measure of the state’s performance is the NAEP.”

      Before taking the State Board’s word on this, Digger readers should review NAEP protocol.

      Fewer than 5% of Vermont students take the NAEP tests… nationally, for example, the NAEP 2015 mathematics assessment was conducted throughout the nation at grades 4, 8, and 12. Approximately 139,900 grade 4 students, 136,900 grade 8 students, and 13,200 grade 12 students took the assessment out of 50 million K-12 students.

      “Federal law specifies that NAEP is voluntary for every student, school, school district, and state.. Students are not required to do so.” And while many educators will claim the cohort is representative, teachers and administrators assign/choose the students who ultimately take the tests….so we can speculate for ourselves how many of those less than proficient students (about half of Vermont’s enrollment) inevitably take the assessments.

      • For the selection process go to:
        See below

      • From above:
        “Your child was randomly selected to participate as a representative of students in your state who attend schools with similar characteristics. The schools selected to participate in NAEP are representative of the demographic and geographic composition of the state as a whole. In a typical state, about 100 schools are selected for grade 4 assessment and 100 schools for grade 8 assessment.
        Your child was selected from a list of all students in his/her grade in the school, including the students with special needs. The NAEP staff selects students from this list by using a statistically valid randomization process. Neither a student’s class performance nor a school’s standing within the district or state has any bearing upon selection for the assessment. Because NAEP does not report scores for individual schools or their students, there should be no internal pressure to select certain students or schools for assessment.”

        • “Because NAEP does not report scores for individual schools or their students, there should be no internal pressure to select certain students or schools for assessment.”

          This is precisely the point…. with a State school monopoly the ‘internal pressure’ is statewide, not school by school.

          And while the “[t]he schools selected to participate in NAEP are representative of the demographic and geographic composition of the state as a whole” there is no formal control on the so-called randomness of the individual student selection process.

          And never mind that the sample is tiny. Common sense dictates that poor performing and/or unmotivated students, as the case may be, will not be inclined to take the NAEP assessment unless they are forced or otherwise enticed to do so. That’s why the best measure isn’t the NAEP but rather the state’s Smarter Balanced Assessment that every Vermont student must take.

    • Check out the national stats…..

      ‘Misery enjoys company.’
      As you read the stats, keep in mind Vermont’s student demographic when comparing, let’s say, Texas’ student performance to Vermont’s. In 2015, for example, Vermont 8th graders scored 290 in Math while Texas 8th graders scored 284.

    • Ann Manwaring

      “But money matters and it matters most for poor kids.” If that’s true, why does the distribution of money from the Education Fund benefit taxpayers and not the poor kids who need it?

  • Thirty-six percent of all students attending Vermont colleges and universities have to take remedial courses to catch up,
    In other words, more than a third of the students that are pumped out of high school aren’t ready for college despite the huge amount of money Vermonters pour into its public schools.
    The next observation is, what happened to academic standards for college entrance?

    • Julia Purdy

      And the unfortunate truth is that when those entering freshman (or first-year) students must take a remedial course just to qualify for Freshman English, for example, someone must pay for that course, which is invariably non-credit. This means that that student is paying for something that will not count but which is required just to get up to speed.
      (Non-native speakers are not included in this group.)
      As a former English instructor at the two-year college level, I have often wondered if the high school and the college levels even talk to each other. What should high schools be doing to properly prepare their students so they don’t face this double-whammy? And what should colleges be telling the high schools what they need to do?

  • David Pratt

    My perspective, as a college teacher of science, is that the kids in Vermont are not being held to a high enough standard in math, and in other subjects as well. They need to be challenged much more than they are. This is the teacher’s job!!!

    • Dave Bellini

      Good luck with that………

    • Michael Bobee

      I agree David. The teachers are chasing test results and rewarding mediocrity. It’s more about social engineering and cultural studies than about the three R’s.

    • We certainly pay enough for a failing system. But the teachers and Unions have a Monopoly on the same system.

    • Julia Purdy

      I signed up as a sub in my town’s elementary school. I have an M.A. in teaching and elementary classroom experience from a long time ago. I have been disappointed in what I am seeing. It seemed to me that the fourth graders were supposed to basically teach themselves. The quantity of canned instructional material was astonishing–games, fill-in-the-blank exercises, way too much unstructured free time when self-teaching games were used–but what were these kids actually learning? Could they even describe it?
      I remember in my teaching intern days, the goal was bodies in seats. That is what brought in the federal dollars.That is a fine goal, but in practice it meant handing control over to the kids (and the school boards), dumbing down the curriculum, not expecting too much. As a result I saw an amount of learned helplessness. Kids are biologically programmed to learn. Later on it’s much harder for them.

  • Peter Everett

    Students are being challenged any longer. Too darn concerned with their feelings being hurt. Courses can’t be tough, students can retake tests until they pass. No homework at the high school level. Teachers are afraid of parents…because the urchins can’t do no wrong. No respect for authority. These are just some of the things I see at my granddaughter’s school system. I’m sure this is the way it is in most systems. The cart is leading the horse. Somewhere along the way we of lost. It will only get worse unless there are drastic changes. Enough of this spending good money after bad. Time to get back to real education. Stand up to the union (it isn’t concerned with quality education). What we are doing to today’s student’s is close to criminal. They are being shortchanged. This being said by someone who was a career educator, fighting the union for 35 years. Major changes are needed, will be opposed by the union. Don’t expect much better. Spending won’t solve the problem.

    • Rich Lachapelle

      “It will only get worse unless there are drastic changes”… well, we has our drastic change
      on Nov. 8th and we will have to wait and see how much that will be able to influence the defiant State of Vermont where some of our belligerent mayors are already poking their fingers in Trump’s eye for arrogant political reasons. We can always hope to “make America’s education system great again”. It was great until the left turned it into an encounter group, at the elementary, secondary AND college levels. Now Vermont is starting the leftist indoctrination even earlier, at the pre-K level.

      • Peter Everett

        Pre-K = day care, not education. This is liberal/union tactics for creating/saving teaching positions. Teachers, paraprofessionals (aides), small class size = major tax expense with little or no positive long term results. Research as shown that by the time students reach 3rd grade, those who had Headstart program time were no better off than those who didn’t have Head Start experience. Throwing more money into programs with little or long term, positive, effects is not cost effective. Yes, it would be nice to help parents with young children. Not at the overall cost to the majority of taxpayers. Other, more viable, solutions to help parents must be possible. One thing, for sure, put into the government’s hands, it will cost far more than in the the Private sector. This boondoggle has to be stopped.

    • Julia Purdy

      The concomitant problems is lack of respect for (a) learning and (b) teachers. Teachers cave in to any number of little manipulations that halt the teaching/learning process, reward bad behavior, and send the wrong message. Firmness is being confused with being “mean,” and education is being confused with entertainment.
      Students at any level learn when they understand that’s what they are supposed to do, when that is the intention, not when it is sugarcoated with games and rewards.
      Vermont was one of the first states to institute the self-esteem module, and it appears to still be in full swing, even though true self-esteem comes from getting the job done and succeeding at a difficult task.

  • Brent Kay

    It is hard to respond to all the issues this article presents. But, I would challenge the reporter to produce the research and data that proves the correlation between SBAC results and college success.

    • Brent, as you and I, along with many others know, there is not correlation between the SBAC and college success.

      • Brent Kay

        George, you are correct and I posted my question because this article presupposes a correlation exists. I am always concerned when articles are published that are not based on sound research.

        • As I scientist I understand how important data is and I’m aware that presentation of data can sway reactions to it. If we get back to the fact that 36% of students attending college in Vermont require at least one remedial class what metric can we use to determine how to improve their primary or secondary education? Where is the research? For those of you who are skeptical of the ‘spin’ on this data, what are your suggestions?

    • Tiffany Pache

      Hi Brent,

      The proficiency level on the Smarter Balance high school test is supposed to accurately measure college readiness. From the Smarter Balanced website:

      “In a first for many states, students can use their Smarter Balanced scores to learn whether they are on track to be ready for college courses. Their test results can also indicate their relative strengths and areas that they need to work on in Grade 12 to bypass developmental courses that won’t count toward a degree. So far, more than 200 colleges and universities in seven “early adopter” states have agreed to accept scores for this purpose. This new collaboration between higher education and K-12 not only benefits students but also demonstrates higher education’s support for both the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced assessments. When a student scores at Level 3 or 4 on the Smarter Balanced assessment, they have the assurance that they are on track to be ready.”

      • Opinion is not research.

      • Brent Kay

        Hi Tiffany: I would welcome you to come see me so I can show you an example of the proper use of data to assess student, teacher, and school progress. I believe in accountability, but have real concerns with the Federal government’s misguided approach. Using SBAC data in this form does a real disservice to public education, teachers, and most importantly students. The assessment and its results, in no way, provide formative information that can be used to inform the teaching-learning process (e.g. teachers and students cannot access the data beyond raw scores to see what questions were answered correctly, what questions were answered partially, etc…). The standard error of the raw data are significant and do not allow any real kind comparison and ranking…I could go on but there are space limits.

  • Chaunce Benedict

    The SBACs are based upon a set of knowledge and skills that is largely derived from a narrow-minded, ideologically-driven, and elitist conception of what constitutes “good pedagogy”, “appropriate curriculum” and “readiness” for college and work; which is toxic for the human spirit and mind in many respects. Whether these tests assess things that are truly relevant and meaningful in terms of the real worlds and lives of our children and their future is a huge question.

    • Julia Purdy

      There is no substitute for a *talented* teacher — not an entertaining teacher or an indulgent teacher or one who knows how to fill out paperwork, or a softie, but a *talented* teacher. They are out there, and their students are the ones who come back years later and say, “Mr. or Mrs. _______ was tough but I’m glad. I learned something.”

  • Chuck Lacy

    I would be interested in seeing this data split by gender.

  • Lester French

    The discussion seems to center around college acceptance and performance. A percentage of highschool students do not want nor need a college education but are lumped into the testing with the expectation that everyone goes to college. The trend seems to be to dumb down the gifted students while attempting to teach everyone the same.

    • Tiffany Pache

      Studies show that the same knowledge is necessary for entering the workforce as is needed to go to college.

      From The American Diploma Project Report “Ready or Not”:
      “Based on both statistical analysis of employment data and extensive research involving over 300 faculty members from two- and four-year postsecondary institutions, managers, and high school educators, the American Diploma Project benchmarks concretely define the English and math that graduates must master to succeed in credit-bearing college courses and high-performance, high-growth jobs. Key findings: employers’ and colleges’ academic demands for high school graduates have converged, yet states’ current high-school exit expectations fall well short of those demands.”

      • Bill Mathis

        Tiffany, George, Chaunce, et al. — Google the Washington Post for an article entitled “Alice in Parccland.” where I examined the predictive validity of the PARCC exam (The one other than SBAC) and found, in the best case, it predicted a whopping 16% of the variance. Where’s the other 84%? Mathematica agreed with my analysis.[There is no similar study for SBAC.] What Tiffany references is a “professional judgment panel” proficiency setting approach.. It collates a lot of opinions. So do these things predict college and career readiness? Well, no. They never have. Read the Mathmatica comments.

  • Glad I spent the time to wade through all this slowly. As ever, the comment section is a rare exception on the internet: hugely appreciate everyone lending context and experience to this thread.

  • rosemarie jackowski

    The real academic value of college is too often overrated. It is a great way to preserve the ‘economic/socio class system’, but not much else. We need to move toward apprenticeships. Also the value of lifetime self-education should be emphasized.

    Currently there is a nationwide controversy about homework. I solved that question way back in the 60s when I was teaching a double class of 3rd and 4th grade. On the first day of school I announced that homework would be mandatory every day, BUT it was up to the student to decide what he/she wanted to do for ‘homework’. The only requirement was that they had to report to the class the following morning and explain what they had learned. It was amazing. The first thing that happened was that my phone rang off the hook every night for the first couple of weeks with calls from parents. The students learned how to learn on their own. Their accomplishments were amazing. I still hear from those ‘kids’. They are Grandparents now.

    • Julia Purdy

      So … what was your function as a teacher, then? Homework makes teaching more efficient and effective because (a) it compels the student to grapple with the material on his/her own, and (b) when the class convenes the next day there are questions and answers, something to move the subject forward. But these days parents get into the mix. At VTC one semester I assigned a number of short, single-stanza poems for students to read over the weekend and just jot down their initial reactions, questions, etc. Standard reader-response fare. The next week I got a slap on the wrist from the English dept. chair who said the homework load was too heavy, a parent had called to complain that I was taking their child away from a family activity. That is the fallout from a complete misunderstanding of the function of homework. As for students “teaching” themselves–why are we wasting tax dollars on schools, in that case?

      • rosemarie jackowski

        The most important function of any teacher is to transmit a passion for learning. Self-designed homework can help accomplish that. Learning is a life-long process.

        I like your last question: “…why are we wasting tax dollars on schools…”. That is a question every Vermonter should be thinking about. Why does it cost so much more in some schools than other schools? Why are there so many non-teaching administrators and ‘experts’ on the payroll?

        Maybe we should calculate the average cost per pupil and give that as a voucher to the family of every student. Give parents a choice. Give taxpayers a break.

  • Rich Lachapelle

    To those who question the value of standardized testing, at least some of us taxpayers want feedback of what we are getting for our VERY BLOATED Vermont education budgets, exhorbitant property taxes and ridiculously small class sizes. We do get some feedback when we go to a store and have a millenial dump the change back into our hand without counting it up. If you want some more feedback, go to a deli staffed by a young person and ask for 2/3 of a pound of swiss cheese. The feedback is usually a blank stare. The basic things that used to be taught in school were not just for college prep, they were skills that would assist anyone through all walks of life. The dumbing-down of Ummerica and the backwards evolution of the human race is not a random process, it has a cause. Elections have consequences and this is one great example.

    • Julia Purdy

      Another example: some while ago my cousin who lived in Oregon went into a bookstore and asked for a title by a certain author. The (then) Gen-Xer at the counter went to the shelves and began *at the first shelf* to look for the title. Apparently no concept of alphabetical order (and I have seen this myself, also, especially now that everyone can search by keyword, so alphabetical order is no longer a required skill). The “blank stare” is a byproduct of the common attitude in school, which is: “You expect me to do WHAT?” Employers are having trouble finding new hires with the basic skills. Staffers hired to write press releases or reports appear to be ignorant of punctuation, and even sentence structure beyond the simple sentence.
      What this means ultimately is that the educated will constitute a sort of priesthood, the uneducated (through no fault of their own) will be more and more marginalized. That’s not how it was supposed to be in a country with universal mandatory education.

  • Jason Gaddis

    Observations: (1) The size of a school must play a role in percentages. (2) In a poor community economic cycles are a much greater factor. (3) The cross-border schools are not included and review is merited. (4) The effect of interstate districts not abiding by rules of either state deserves review. (5) Money that is received and is not subject to the Act 60 process needs serious review. (6) Private schools that segregate in admissions, exclude on the basis of ability and do not abide by common regulations seem difficult to compare to public schools and are impossible to tolerate as recipients of public tax dollars. That a sitting governor and both prospective candidates would preemptively side with the private schools without apparent consultation with the Department or Board of Education and that a proposed set of rules intended to provide greater equity would be shirked aside for political purposes calls into question ethics and integrity and the very functioning of our democracy.

  • And what happens to you if you don’t pay the education portion of your annual taxes?

    • Jason Gaddis

      Steve – Now that Trump and Scott are in office I have serious reservations about paying any taxes but it is part of our democracy and our cultural and social compact to do so. There are things that one person may not support – guns and war – and other things someone else may support – education and social welfare – and yet all of these things receive funding from taxes. These concepts are typically taught in a good high-school history or civics class and are clearly not being taught or absorbed as much as would be ideal in a democracy. The thought that our public education system has been undermined by our own elected Democrat officials and will now be emasculated by prospective Republican administrations ought to leave many with serious reservations about the state of politics in particular and the foundational mores of our state and country in general.

      • Julia Purdy

        If Americans understood anything at all about civics and our own history, let alone 20th century history in general, we would not be in the bind we are presently in. But even civics and history can be attacked as “partisan.”
        Unfortunately, however, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Motivation is key. The student must perceive an instant and concrete payoff that is more compelling that the constant stream of stimulus on Facebook or text messages.

  • Julia Purdy

    I know, and I’m sure many readers also do, certain teachers who are living back in the 60s and regard as stifling the natural genius of children, a stamping machine turning out little identical worker bees to fill the factories and offices. But I submit that important skill sets include: showing up on time, controlling one’s impulses, learning grammar and spelling, learning facts, knowing how to handle frustration and failure, and that none of these are antithetical to fostering curiosity and motivation to learn. It all comes under the heading of self-discipline, which kids learn by being given models and being expected to follow the models. Kids can do it. The littlest ones are proud to recite their ABC’s. It’s a pretty heady experience to meet and overcome a challenge that you thought was too difficult. We are cheating our kids of that.

  • Research and analysis of data is never able to quantify what is the influence of parents. Successful students have parents who have high standards, support learning and encourage their children to set goals. I see this influence in each successful school and individual students within schools.

  • Andrew nemethy

    Tiffany and VtDigger, thanks for digging into the unrewarding morass of Education metrics, and matrix. While I appreciate the validity of the critical comments on the graphs and methodology, at the same time I think we should appreciate Digger’s effort to try and put this all into a readable and graphable form. Having covered the jargonesque, dense and arcane world of educational testing and bureaucracy, it is no easy task, especially to try and explain things in layperson lingo (such as the impenetrable maze of Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) and Equalized Pupil Count. Now there’s some math and English for you!)
    My point is, let’s take this reporting as a starting point for conversation that raises issues we should all be thinking about on college readiness, school spending, and what and how we should be teaching.This I know for a fact: My college students can barely write, spell and have rudimentary grammar skills. Proficient? Hardly.

  • Peter Everett

    People invest in stocks wishing for high returns. They do so, voluntarily. We, involuntarily, invest in education at the highest rate per student in the nation. Don’t we have the right to see our returns match what we put into the system? Damn it!!! I’m tired of every lame excuse that is spit out at us for failure after failure. Union wants more money, state wants more money…not until significant results are shown for a minimum of 5 years. Level fund, perform to what the taxpayers pay for, then you can expect a bit more. Until such time, live with what you have, and, show us what you can do. Time for excuses to end. If this were a business, it would be out of business. Give more, expect less. You’ve got to be kidding!!! Worse, don’t let government get more involved. Expect even less.

  • Alice Leeds

    My understanding of the Common Core in math is that it raises expectations from the previous math standards enough that programs are being revised from the early grades on up. Because new math skills each years are built on previous ones, it will take some time before scores improved in the upper grades. This is important information to consider when commenting on scores.