Dear Secretary King,
The Vermont State Board of Education thanks you for the opportunity to respond to the ESSA proposed rules. Our Board is proud to represent a state where the people support a strong state funding system, enjoy schools that foster high student performance and register narrow equity gaps as compared with the nation. Nevertheless, the opportunity gap is our most pressing concern and is the number one goal in our strategic plan.
With these traditions and values in mind, we have strong concerns and reservations about ESSA. Fundamentally, if we are to close the achievement gap, it is imperative that we substantively address the underlying economic and social disparities that characterize our nation, our communities and our schools. With two-thirds of the score variance attributable to outside of school factors, test scores gaps measure the health of our society more than the quality of the schools.
Consequently, the continuation of a test-based, labeling and “assistance” model (broadly seen as punishment) has not only proven ineffective, but has had a corrosive effect on the confidence of the people. The encouragement of privatization has been harmful to local democracy, has further segregated a too fragmented nation and has diluted rather than focused valuable resources.