A few weeks ago, as I watched students in Rutland kick off a day-long global issues conference they had planned, I had cause yet again to reflect on how proud and grateful I am to live in Vermont.
Sure, like anyone, we have things we can do better. And in our true New England crusty way, we tend to nod at what works and grind on where we think we fall short. But at the end of the day, we have much to celebrate and much on which we can build a strong and vibrant future for our children, communities and schools. As we work to improve, don't forget to build on what we do well.
You already know on average, our students are among the highest performing in the nation, and Education Week’s Quality Counts 2016 and 2017 report placed Vermont third overall in the U.S.
However, there is so much more to our story.
- From a dance in Newport to divine choral music in Hardwick to visual arts at Green Mountain Union High School and countless other schools across the state, our schools mirror and amplify the strong culture and tradition of arts in Vermont.
- Our prekindergarten programs focus on play-based learning, because we know play IS the work of these youngest learners, and it is how these children develop the self-regulation and executive functioning capabilities they need to thrive in life beyond school.
- We put the strength of our farms into building the bodies and brains of our children. According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 83% of Vermont school districts have a farm-to-school program – the highest percentage in the country. We also have school gardens all over the state, along with outdoor classrooms.
- Vermont is the second healthiest state for women, children and infants after Massachusetts and New Hampshire (United Health Foundation, 2016). And all these healthy children can live active lives and take advantage of our unique landscape, including our environmental education programs in both our elementary and high schools.
- Even our biggest schools with the highest teacher to student ratios are small, compared to schools in other states. We still operate on a human scale and in systems where we can build a strong sense of shared community and common civic purpose.
- While our communities do have differing levels of wealth, our funding formula, though not perfect, has not incentivized the gross socioeconomic segregation that is pervasive in many contexts. Because we still work and learn together across levels of advantage in most communities, we are still able to build the sense of shared purpose and investment that is the foundation of a healthy democracy. For the most part, we understand that investing in the care of our neighbor’s child is taking care of our community and future prosperity.
Read the full memo on Education in Vermont.