I have a few items to share with you related to the Education Spending Bill (H.361) moving through the legislature this week and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests that are to be administered in the coming months. I warn you this is a long email J
H.361 An act relating to making amendments to education funding, education spending, and education governance
The House Education Committee first passed a 2% across-the-board cap on increases in per-student costs. A new proposal would put a 1.5% cap on increases in education spending or per-student costs. This has real implications for BMU. Costs associated with mandatory Pre-K education, the Affordable Care Act, and others will be impacting on our school's budgets and may be in excess of the 1.5% cap. There may be other ways to achieve the goals of reducing public education costs that are more equitable and sustainable. The Bill also addresses school district consolidation and collective bargaining; again, these aspects of the Bill affect BMU. Please look into the Bill that is moving through the legislature this week. Call your legislators to learn more about this Bill and what it could mean for BMU.
Link to the Bills and Resolutions section of the VT Legislature website: http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/10
Link to the current text of the Bill http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2016/Docs/BILLS/H-0361/H-0361%20As%20Introduced.pdf
Blue Mountain SD – Rich Pike, Superintendent (757‐2766)
Sen. Joe Benning (R) 291 Happy Hill Rd., Lyndonville, VT 05851 626‐3600 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Jane Kitchel (D) PO Box 82, Danville, VT 05828 684‐3482 email@example.com
Sen. Mark A. MacDonald (D) 404 MacDonald Rd., Williamstown, VT 05679 433‐5867 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Chip Conquest (D) 409 Bible Hill Rd, Wells River, VT 05081 757‐3803 email@example.com
Rep. Marcia Martel (R) 1087 Slate Ledge Rd., Waterford, VT 05819 748‐9134 firstname.lastname@example.org
High stakes testing has been in the news around the country and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests will be administered in VT this spring. I have enclosed a link to a blog that reprinted the letter from Michael Galli, Dean of Students at the Rivendell Academy that addresses some of the concerns held by schools and parents regarding the SBAC. It is a detailed letter in response to VT's Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe’s SBAC Memo of February 17th, and worth the time to read. (http://dianeravitch.net/2015/03/10/vermont-the-heavy-fist-of-the-federal-government-demands-testing/)
On March 17th, the Vermont Agency of Education passed a resolution on the appropriate use of SBAC tests and school accountability (http://education.vermont.gov/documents/Item%20Z,%2003.17.15%20SBE%20Meeting.pdf). For me this is a step in the right direction. For full disclosure, I am against high stakes testing as a measure of learning or accountability and a proponent of parents’ right to opt-out of these tests. As Secretary Holcombe said herself in the memo of February 17th, there are real questions surrounding the tests ability to accurately measure what our children know.
“Like many of you, I worry that too much emphasis on test-based accountability creates a new kind of equity gap, as schools -- and particularly high poverty schools-- feel compelled to narrow curriculum to what is tested, and away from other critical learning children need to thrive as adults in civic and economic life. Given that the “proficiency threshold” on the new tests is set so high that two-thirds of our high school students will likely not score as “proficient,” it is a virtual certainty that once again, all our public schools will be labeled “low performing,” despite the fact that a study by the US Department of Education ranked us seventh in the world in math and science. This is also despite the fact that our students know more, on average, than children in their parents’ generation, judging by scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. As one legislator recently told me after reviewing a sample SBAC test online, “I am really glad I am not in school today, because I don’t think I would do very well.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this long email and I hope that the information is helpful as we talk more about the future of public education in VT and at BMU.
Have a good day,