Years late and a dollar short in Vermont

Years late and a dollar short in Vermont

By Dale Chu

States are notoriously slow when it comes to releasing annual test results, but the state of Vermont took apathy to new lows a couple of weeks ago when, as part of a Friday news dump, the state finally released its 2022 state assessment results for schools and districts. Some states have already released their data for 2023, so putting 2022 results out now is a unique form of not giving a flying fudge.

Vermont’s delay was so egregious, I’m not even sure where to begin. At this point, the results are so old, they’ve been rendered virtually meaningless. Students are with new teachers, in new schools or are out of the K-12 system entirely. What’s a teacher or administrator to do with this hoary data? Who’s running the show in Montpelier? Rip Van Winkle?

Come to think of it, Vermont’s senior senator has never cared for standardized tests and neither do his colleagues in public service apparently. Consider this response from a state official at the Vermont Agency of Education when asked about how people should use this data:

State-level data is best used for administrative and policy purposes, [the official] said. He explained it is used for evaluating curriculum and professional development or informing strategic planning. Statewide assessments are not specific enough or timely enough to address real time student performance which is at the center of the parents’ concerns, [the official] said.

What a shortsighted and mealy-mouthed argument! Sure, policymakers and researchers are a primary audience for state assessment data, but parents and community members could also use these results for a range of decisions. But what the Green Mountain State really seems to be saying here is, “Standardized tests are not useful and never will be, so who cares when they come out!”

Like the series finale of Newhart, I was hoping that all of this was a fever dream of sorts that I would wake up from. No such luck. But all kidding aside, parents and educators in Vermont deserve seriousness, urgency, and transparency from their public officials when it comes to providing timely and actionable data. All the more so as academic performance in the state continues to decline following the pandemic.


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