Vermont Agency of Education Releases 2021 Statewide Assessment Results

November 8, 2021

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ted Fisher, Vermont Agency of Education,, 802-595-5562

Montpelier, Vt. - The Vermont Agency of Education announced state-level results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Program and the Vermont Science Assessment along with the release of the Vermont Education Dashboard Version 4.0. The Smarter Balanced assessments are administered annually in the spring to students in grades three through nine. They are designed to measure students’ mastery of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The Vermont Science Assessment is given to students in grades five, eight, and eleven measuring students’ mastery of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The Agency is releasing the assessment results as part of the regular update schedule for the Vermont Education Dashboard along with new interactive visualizations providing data on exclusionary discipline, and academic course participation.

The 2021 Smarter Balanced Assessment and Vermont Science Assessment were administered in Spring of 2021 under extraordinary pandemic conditions. The difficulty of administering these federally required assessments during the 2020-21 school year, coupled with lower and uneven participation rates caused by the challenges of remote and hybrid learning mean that Vermont’s 2021 Smarter Balanced and Vermont Science Assessment scores cannot be compared to prior year performance.

“Our 2021 assessment results highlight the enormous challenges and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning,” said Heather Bouchey, Ph.D., Deputy Secretary of Education.  “While individual student results are valuable for educators and families, our 2021 scores serve as a stark reminder of how extraordinary last school year was. The state’s aggregate numbers aren’t themselves useful for making decisions about curriculum or making immediate changes to instructional programs, but they demonstrate how much work we have still ahead of us, to focus on education recovery.”

Vermont schools were required by the federal government to administer these assessments, to Vermont students. And the Agency of Education is required by law to report these results, regardless of the validity of interpretations. The accuracy of individual student results is likely unaffected by the disruption of last year and can still serve as useful indicators of student progress for educators and families. However, the disruption caused by the pandemic conditions themselves make meaningful comparison to prior year assessment performance statistically difficult, if not impossible.

“We strongly recommend against comparing these results to previous years,” said Wendy Geller, Ph.D., Director of the Data Management and Analysis Division at the Agency of Education. “Educators and families worked incredibly hard last year to minimize impacts to student learning and engagement. Despite their heroic efforts, it was not possible to conduct the Smarter Balanced and Vermont Science Assessments in the same way we had previously. The extraordinary circumstances lead to a range of factors that make this year’s results statistically invalid when compared to prior years.”

The factors influencing the validity of the results include, but are not limited to, lower than normal participation rates due to hybrid and remote learning practices, lack of participation by medically vulnerable and other students with special circumstances, and the general difficulty of administering standardized assessments during at best difficult pandemic conditions.

“The validity concerns with the results only serve to highlight how important in-person learning is,” said Secretary of Education, Dan French, Ed.D. “We know from local assessments, other data points, and a range of anecdotal evidence that many students struggled last year. It is critical that students are back in the classroom full time, first and most importantly to maximize opportunities for learning, but also to provide us with the right conditions to accurately measure progress and target areas of improvement.” 

Vermont’s focus on Education Recovery is intended to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students: to academic achievement, social emotional and mental health, and student engagement. Each Vermont school district must have a recovery plan and can use federal COVID-19 emergency fund for education recovery initiatives. State provided resources include academic focus on foundational literacy and mathematics skills using existing initiatives, as well as new programs like SEL VT and Edmodo.

This update to the Vermont Education Dashboard is the fourth version and includes the SY21 assessment results. New in this version are interactive visualizations providing data on exclusionary discipline, and academic course participation. The exclusionary discipline data, in particular, comes in response to increased interest by the Agency, the General Assembly, and other stakeholders in reducing suspensions and expulsions. The dashboard provides valuable data on incidence and trends in Supervisory Unions and across the state.

The full Smarter Balanced and Vermont Science Assessment results are available on the Vermont Education Dashboard, For a breakdown of scores by assessment and grade level, see the 2021 Smarter Balanced and Vermont Science Assessment Fact Sheet.

About the Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Program is administered annually in the spring to students in grades three through nine. These assessments are designed to measure students’ mastery of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.

The English Language Arts section of the assessment program includes sections on Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking, and Research/Inquiry. The results from each section are combined to form a broad English Language Arts score. The Mathematics assessment includes tasks and questions that address Communicating Reasoning, Problem Solving and Modeling/Data Analysis, and Concepts and Procedures. Both assessments report scale scores and proficiency percentage scores for all students and scale scores for student groups.

About the Vermont Science Assessment

The 2019 test year was the first operational administration of the Vermont Science Assessment (VTSA). It is designed to measure students’ mastery of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), adopted by Vermont in 2013 as a foundation for science instruction.

Based on the Framework for K-12 Education, the NGSS refocuses K-12 science education to improve readiness for college and STEM careers as well as preparing students to become informed, knowledgeable citizens. The NGSS focus on helping students use scientific inquiry, interdisciplinary thinking and science content to make sense of their natural and designed world. The VTSA is designed to help parents and educators determine if students are on target to achieve proficiency in the NGSS.

About the Vermont Education Dashboard

During each fiscal year, the Agency of Education collects data from Vermont's supervisory unions and school districts about students, staff, enrollment, assessments and more. The data collected help inform us, schools, educators and taxpayers about the functionality and success of Vermont's education system.

The Vermont Education Dashboard provides public access to Vermont's education data.

About the Vermont Agency of Education

The Agency of Education implements state and federal laws, policies, and regulations to ensure all Vermont learners have equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities. The Agency accomplishes this mission through the provision of its leadership, support, and oversight of Vermont’s public education system.

Connect with the Vermont Agency of Education on Twitter, Facebook and the Web.