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Vermont SBAC test results highlight familiar achievement gap

(WCAX)
Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 5:57 PM EDT
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New standardized test scores are out for Vermont students, raising familiar questions about achievement gaps, even as schools face new challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Vermont Agency of Education Secretary Daniel French says that based on the

Vermont students are performing well nationally, but their growth has plateaued. He says the results from last year are overdue because of a change in the data system Vermont is now using.

"When you see data moving in the same direction on multiple measures, it should at least confirm for us some hypotheses that what's going on, the data is moving in the same direction and why," French said.

He says he needs to dig deeper into the results, but that the trends the state expected to see are prevalent. This includes the continuation of high test scores from students who have typically performed well in the past and a large achievement gap for students from racial or ethnic minorities, those from low-income households, as well as those with disabilities and students who speak English as a second language.

"We're basically a year behind schedule, so that kind of delay is not tolerable for the public interest. We're hoping to launch a different longitude or vertical reporting system in the coming years," French said.

They include a comparison to academic proficiency in the 2017-18 school year. It shows performance was being met in 2017-18, but only approaches it in 2018-19. A deeper look shows students' only growth was in science.

French hopes the data will be used more frequently when making teaching decisions. "The data can be very useful, particularly as we see this trend that is fairly disturbing. We have marginalized groups that continue to not do well. The data could really be used to target extra support for those students," he said.

And because of the coronavirus, French says those students performing below proficiency will need even more support when returning in the fall. "COVID will have a significant impact on all student learning, but I think we can expect that those students that did not have adequate supports in their prior COVID environment are going to have a significant impact, a negative impact as a result of COVID on their performance," he said.

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