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More on ACSU's deceptive annual report

The column-inches allotted for this essay are too few to permit a review of the history of the states rights phrase and how its invention and use were deplored by Northern liberals. Most readers, except maybe recent high school grads, will perhaps appreciate the irony of those same folks now using the same doctrine to justify non-cooperation with the feds on a different subject: public education and student test scores. Sometimes this deliberate non-cooperation goes to remarkable lengths: consider, for example, opening the annual National Digest of Educational Statistics from recent past years and finding some of Vermont students federal test scores missing; or, most recently, opening the latest U.S. Department of Educations study comparing federal test rigorousness with that of various state-preferred tests and finding, similarly, Vermont and a handful of other states, including, sweet irony, Alabama results totally absent. A real historian, not an amateur like me, might observe that it took Vermont half a century to join with Alabama in discovering the self-governance virtues (and political advantages) of the states rights principle, albeit for a somewhat different reason. You can verify this discovery for yourself: the full name of the publication is Mapping 2005 State Proficiency Scores Onto the NAEP Scales. It is Publication 2007-482 of the National Center for Educational Statistics, and is the result of grassroots political pressure: parents and taxpayers across the country asking why their childrens test scores seemed to be so much higher on state-preferred tests (in Vermont, theres been a succession of them, most recently the NECAP diagnostic, which is currently popular for producing higher apparent test scores than its predecessors) than on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress tests for, typically, math and reading at various grade levels. In Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, for example, students showing 60-80 percent proficient on state-preferred tests show a much less impressive 30-40 percent on the federal tests. You can see why Vermont educrats would embrace states rights so as not to cooperate with a federal effort comparing NECAP upon which the 2008 Addison Central Supervisory Union Annual Report proudly announces its elementary school students are showing proficient percentages as high as 84 (fourth grade math, Weybridge) with the statewide NAEP tests (not mentioned in the report) which show about 2/3 of all Vermont students non-proficient. Montpelier educrats discovered the political value of withholding state-preferred test information from the feds so that Vermont couldnt be included in a study comparing federal and state test rigorousness; it now seems that local-district educrats have chosen to do likewise, carefully excluding test scores from a state-mandated report on cost-effectiveness. You can see for yourself, in the last nine pages of the 2008 ACSU Annual Report, how theres lots of information on staffing and spending, but not a single number on the test score outputs student achievement these inputs produced. I used the NECAP test scores from the school-by-school findings in the front part of the annual report to construct my own analysis of cost-effectiveness. I averaged the fourth grade math and reading scores for each school and then divided each number by the same schools Current Spending per Pupil to get a Effectiveness Index (E.I.) based on percentage point-of-proficiency per dollar. As the bulleted list below shows, the results range from an E.I. of 100 for Weybridge (where $7,961 per pupil produced an average 80 percent proficient-at-grade-level) down to Shoreham (where $9,144 produced only 31 percent of fourth grade students proficient, for an E.I. of 34). The long division isnt quite rocket science, but it shows an easy measurement of cost-effectiveness. The ACSU should have met its statutory obligation and included this basic arithmetic in its annual report but it chose not to. Why not? You decide, youre a school-budget voter and hold the purse strings. And while youre deciding, you might note that the higher spending and/or smaller class-size schools dont post the best student achievement scores. Cost-Effective Schools Data Table from ACSU 2008 Annual Report: (E.I. by the writer) The following list of towns include, in order, 1. proficiency percentage*, 2. p/t ratio, 3. average class size, 4. current cost ($) per pupil, and 5. efficiency index: Bridport: 40, 8.68, 14.7, $9,373, .0043 (43). Cornwall: 75, 9.51, 13.2, $9,012, .0083 (83). Middlebury (MH): 79, 10.66, 17.4, $9,819, .0080 (80). Ripton: 56, 12.77, 13.5, $7,779, .0072 (72). Salisbury: 60, 9.53, 13.4, $9,524, .0063 (63). Shoreham: 31, 9.19,13.6, $9,144, .0034 (34). Weybridge: 80, 13.33, 17.0, $7,961, .0100 (100). *Proficiency Percentage derives from the average of NECAP 4th grade math and reading scores for 2007 except for Ripton where 2006 data are used because 2007 data are not shown. Proficiency as used here equates to the meeting or exceeding the standard phrase in the ACSU Annual Report. Both approximate ability to function at grade level as used in the Federal NAEP test score data. **Current per-pupil spending is a lower dollar amount than Education Spending per Pupil because of the line items not included, typically capital outlay and debt service, adult education, special education, etc. ***Efficiency Index is obtained through division of Proficiency Percentage by Current Spending per Pupil. Thus, for Ripton, 56/7779 = .0072 or, in whole numbers, 72. Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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