Will 'Annual Snapshot' improve school outcomes?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) There's a new way to measure school performance in Vermont. State education leaders say the 'Annual Snapshot' allows the public to review the performance of the state's public schools. The online tool was created with feedback from over 2,000 Vermonters and educators to better identify both the strengths and weaknesses of the state's schools, but not everybody is onboard.

"What we're trying to do with this system -- based on extensive Vermont feedback -- is to focus the conversation sincerely on improving outcomes for kids," said Vermont Education Secretary Daniel French.

After years of data showing Vermont schools were failing federal proficiency standards, The Agency of Education has introduced a new system that encompasses more than just standardized test scores. "The goal is to better understand how our schools are performing and to surface opportunities for growth and improvement," French said.

As part of the Annual Snapshot, all public schools in Vermont will be measured using five standards -- academic proficiency, personalization, safe and healthy schools, high-quality staffing, and investment priorities. The data will be posted online so anyone can look to see how any public school, district, or supervisory union is improving, or what work still needs to be done.

French says there's already one criteria state officials know many schools lack. "We struggle especially with equity," he said.

The state has highlighted over 100 schools that have been identified as having performance gaps between historically privileged groups of students and historically marginalized students, like those with an Individual Education Program (IED), those eligible for free and reduced lunch, and english language learners.

"It's a huge issue, and that performance gap has been persistent for decades," said Rob Roper with the Ethan Allen Institute, a Libertarian think tank. He believes attempts to fix that performance gap in the past have come up short. He also believes that parents never get the chance to truly evaluate a school's performance because the system hasn't stayed the same. "The concern that I have is that we keep changing the metrics by which we hold our schools accountable."

The data is now live on the Agency of Education's website. Right now you can only see academic proficiency scores from the 2017-2018 school year. Officials say more data will be rolled out in the coming months.

Part of this Snapshot release, Vermont will also be assisting 14 schools eligible for comprehensive supports.

Burlington High School and C.P. Smith, part of the Burlington School District, are two that will be receiving support and funding.

Superintendent Yaw Obeng says more can be done.

"The release of the snapshot confirms that there is a lot to be proud of in Burlington School District, and that we have room for growth too," said Obeng in a statement.