"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, October 07, 2011

Susan Ohanian asks: Vermont, do you really want a waiver?

Vermont: Do you really want a waiver?

Published in Rutland Herald
10/06/2011 (Vermont)

It is both regrettable and understandable that the Rutland Herald account of the Monday meeting of the state Board of Education meeting contains so much misinformation. Commissioner Armando Vilaseca did not help clarify this critical education issue by mouthing hot air direct from U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. 

The truth of the matter is that there won’t be less testing. Because Vermont signed on to the Common Core State Standards and Assessments, students face more standardized testing than ever before.

The truth of the matter is that although a waiver from current NCLB rules may prevent schools from being artificially labeled “in need of improvement,” if Vermont requests a waiver, we will be signing on to make all students “college ready.” Yes, all students. 

We will also be signing on to identifying good teachers by student test scores. That’s a federal requirement for this waiver. 

The Monday meeting of the Vermont Board of Education was an appalling demonstration of people at the Department of Education trying to put a good face on federal mandates that have received severe criticism from respected education experts. Just to name one: Writing at Economic Policy Institute blog, eminent analyst Richard Rothstein pointed out that Duncan’s waiver restrictions are pushing states “to adopt accountability conditions that are even more absurd, more unworkable, more fanciful than those in the law [NCLB] itself.” 

But there’s hope. In the face of Commissioner’s Vilaseca’s insistence that “only the commissioner has the authority to request a waiver,” our state Board of Education voted unanimously — unanimously — that they want to see that waiver request before it is sent to Washington. 

Six-zero knockdown. Kudos.

— Susan Ohanian

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