(Host) Vermont’s commissioner of education, Richard Cate, traveled to Marlboro Monday to urge the school board to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act.
VPR’s Susan Keese has more.
(Keese) Marlboro is the only school board in the state that has refused to participate in the federal school assessment law. Last year the board voted not to authorize any tests its principal doesn’t consider educationally useful.
Dan MacArthur chairs the Marlboro school board. He says if a school’s success or failure depends on test performance, teachers will start teaching what’s on the test.
(MacArthur) “And we absolutely feel that that’s a terrible way to set curriculum. Some big organization somewhere else is basically setting the curriculum for our school. And we really believe that’s best set at the local level.”
(Keese) The commissioner said he thinks confronting the federal government is a waste of time. Cate says he expects the law to change but right now, the yearly tests it mandates aren’t negotiable.
But when it comes to the consequences of the test scores for individual schools – especially Vermont’s small, rural schools – he believes there’s more flexibility than most people think.
(Cate) “The question is, what do we do with the data? And how do we look at the differences in the particular circumstances of kids and schools? There’s no giant hammer that’s going to fall on anyone because of any of these tests. It’s just not going to happen in Vermont. I won’t let it.”
(Keese) Cate says the tests can provide a comparable look at how schools are doing and who needs help.
Vermont could lose more than $40 million in federal funds if the state doesn’t comply with the law. Marlboro’s principal and superintendent could lose their licenses.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.