Vt. investigates school calendar, class length
By Cristina Kumka
STAFF WRITER | October 28,2012
The state has formed a new commission to review quality standards in schools, including how conducive a traditional school calendar and limited class times are to progressive learning.
The state Board of Education announced last week the formation of a 17-member Education Quality Standards Commission, which piggybacks off work started by the 2009 Education Transformation Policy Commission.
This commission’s goal is to come up with a proposal that recommends new policies to be adopted by the state board. These could include new graduation requirements, the amount of time spent in classes and other broad policies that could effect how schools operate and how an education is given.
While the commission’s goal is separate and secondary to preparing schools for new standardized tests in 2015 called the Common Core, both will align sometime in the future.
The Common Core, a nationally adopted set of school rules that stresses college- and career-ready preparation for kids, also asks that graduation requirements be modified and that’s something the new commission will investigate.
“It’s a pretty big shift and responsibility,” said Jill Remick, the commission’s project manager. “Most of the folks in schools would be welcoming to some change to school quality standards.”
The commission will use a recent report, by a task force formed by the Vermont Superintendents Association, that aimed to answer the question: “What is it that the public education system is expected to accomplish for every child?”
The report, called “Welcome to Vermont: Home of a world-class public education system dedicated to fulfilling the aspirations of each student,” stressed a new education for kids that included a “personalized, responsive, rigorous, engaging, flexible and relevant and meaningful” learning design.
The report also looked at historical accomplishments in education and built on them.
For example, universal access to education is to be followed by an education with high standards.
Standardized solutions were replaced by customized learning plans and processes.
Limited choices were replaced by expanded choices. Progress measured by time in the classroom, credits and annual school schedules were replaced by an education delivered anytime, anywhere and measured more directly, according to the report.
“They (the VSA) are really about not just measuring students after they’ve gone through the system, but making sure kids have access to all those things before it’s too late,” Remick said.
That includes distance, or online, learning, interactive lessons, and requiring students to take subjects sooner, according to Remick.
The education system in Vermont is too susceptible to schools pushing students through from grade to grade, without giving them personalized learning, according to the state Education Department.
“The VSA Task Force has succeeded in distilling into a very simple message what we should expect for every student through his or her public education experience in Vermont,” said Stephan Morse, chairman of the state Board of Education.
“The challenge is clearly daunting, but it is achievable through wise deployment of resources, family participation and conscientious stewardship of every student by every adult in the public education system,” he said.
The first meeting of the EQS Commission is Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Education Department’s Licensing & Business office at 1311 Route 302 in Berlin.