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Grading Vermont's test scores

Havent we all read recent news articles extolling the stellar performance of Vermonts public schools? That is true. These articles, however, were based on a very casual reading of the results contained in the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports. A more critical assessment revises Vermonts apparent national rankings as follows: 4th Grade Reading: to 19th from 4th
4th Grade Math: to 23rd from 6th
8th Grade Reading: to 11th from 1st
8th Grade Math: to 16th from 4th Demographics account for these significant downward revisions of Vermonts performance. Vermonts students are 94% White. Nationally, White students, comprising 55%-58% of those tested, significantly out perform Black (17%) and Hispanic (18%-21%) students. NAEP highlights the importance of demographics in assessing comparative performance. Vermonts revised rankings reflect how our White students performed vs. other states White students. While the NAEP reports are billed as The Nations Report Card they dont award grades. To rectify this shortcoming, standard deviation methodology was applied to the test performances of white students in all 50 states with the grade of C accorded its traditional role, i.e. indicative of average performance. Massachusetts performed the best with an aggregate grade of A (two As and two B+s) while West Virginia had an F on all four tests. Vermonts aggregate grade was C (C on both 4th grade tests and C+ on both 8th grade tests). Vermont White Scores vs. National White Average Scores: 4th Grade Reading: Vermont 229 vs. USA 230
4th Grade Math: Vermont 247 vs. USA 248
8th Grade Reading: Vermont 273 vs. USA 270
8th Grade Math: Vermont 292 vs. USA 290 Apologists for the exorbitant spending on Vermont public education often point to its excellent performance. Thats simply not true. And the solution to Vermonts average performance is not more resources. As a recent report detailed there are significant opportunities to streamline Vermont spending on public education without compromising performance. Improving performance requires a complete rethink of what and how were teaching and administration/teacher accountability for measurable results. Are we up to the challenge? We need to be. We owe it to our kids. Hugh Kemper

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