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Feds OK Vermont education proposal

Ohanian Comment: Note that the Vermont education department spokesperson says that the $6.6 million to develop the new test to satisfy NCLB requirements "came from the federal government."

The money comes right out of our taxpayer pockets. And plenty of us think that money could have been better spent elsewhere.

BRATTLEBORO -- The U.S. Department of Education has approved Vermont's proposal to change the way it determines "adequate yearly progress" next year in the state's schools, as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Vermont collaborated with New Hampshire and Rhode Island in developing the New England Common Assessment Program: an agreement that will have students in the three states' public schools taking the same tests in grades 3-8, beginning this year.

As part of the tri-state arrangement, testing will move from the spring to the fall. Last year, students in grades 4 and 8 were not tested in the spring, as schools prepared to move to the fall testing this coming year.

The three states sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, asking that the 2005-06 tests be used to determine annual progress for that school year. Last year, only the students in grades 2 and 10 were tested and Vermont Education Commissioner Richard Cate said he was not sure if the federal education department would allow Vermont to measure school progress using only test results from the two grades.

In a letter sent to Cate this week, Spellings stated that, for this year, the education departments in the three states would be able to use last year's results as a way to measure progress.

"They said that we can proceed with our normal accountability measurements without the tests," said Cate. "It is a very reasonable approach. I was prepared to debate them if the department said we would need new tests or indicators."

State education departments use adequate yearly progress as a way of measuring how schools are meeting the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Law. Schools that do not show progress receive state help, and can then face sanctions if progress is not achieved.

The Vermont Department of Education will release the adequate yearly progress determinations in the fall for last year. After the new tests are given this fall, the department will release the determinations for the 2005-06 school year in the spring.

Vermont Department of Education spokeswoman Jill Remick said that while Spellings did not allow the three states to use the fall 2005 tests in the same year's assessments, the department was relieved that they would not have to go back and administer tests to last year's fourth and eighth graders.

"It is good news," Remick said. "It is better than having to go back and give another test."

Prior to spring 2004, Vermont students in grades 4 and 8 were tested in English and math.

Beginning next school year, students in grades 3-8 will be tested to meet the requirements of the 2002 federal education law.

Vermont spent $6.6 million developing the new tests. Remick said that money came from the federal government.

— Howard Weiss-Tisman
Brattleboro Reformer


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