Our Responsibility for the Learning of our Students

February 28, 2017

TO:                  Principals, Superintendents, and Vermont Educators
FROM:            Rebecca Holcombe, Ed.D., Secretary of Education
SUBJECT:       Our Responsibility for the Learning of our Students
DATE:             February 28, 2017

With the new Administration in Washington and the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, we are in transition on several fronts, including how we talk about and manage our responsibility for ensuring all our students are well educated.

Our work in public education is paradoxical. On the one hand, we need good data on how we are doing, so that we can use that data to support continuous improvement in learning and to make sure we are achieving our equity goals, both locally and at the state level. If a test is too easy or too hard, it does not give us useful information to support that work. Vermont has always erred on the side of higher standards, to give us ambitious “stretch” goals for our children and ourselves.

Without good data, we would have no way to really evaluate whether our professional collaboration and the investments we make lead to the difference we want for our children. Without this data, we can’t do our job. We must have high expectations, or we will not achieve what we hope for our children. Now, more than ever, our children need to be well educated in order to prosper and help build a strong state.

On the other hand, this transparency can leave us feeling vulnerable and discouraged when it is used to criticize our work or diminish our students. Children bring different kinds of privilege and disadvantage to school, and children who live in challenging circumstances are not evenly distributed across the state. We know that some communities are coping with unique levels of adversity, and this affects how their students score overall. We also know some communities have populations that are uniquely advantaged in the resources and education levels of their parents, and unsurprisingly, some of these communities are amongst our highest scoring. We have to move past a simplistic conversation of whether schools are good or bad, and towards a more meaningful conversation around...

Read the full memo