Vt. Schools to Create New High School Proficiency Standards

Saturday, June 07, 2014
Montpelier — The state will roll out new proficiency requirements to receive a high school diploma.

Currently, most high schools in the state award diplomas through the accumulation of credits, which are awarded to students for receiving a passing grade in a class.

However, for most high schools, there is no test to ensure the student has accumulated the knowledge needed to be successful in life.

This summer, the Agency of Education is developing proficiency-based standards for high school graduation. Unlike other states, such as California and New York, there will not be a standard statewide exit examination. Instead, local school boards will have the freedom to develop their own methods to measure a student’s proficiency.

“It’s a pretty major, fundamental shift in the way student progress is measured,” said Jill Remick, project manager for the Agency of Education.

Local school boards have until 2020 to create their own proficiency tests. Students entering seventh grade this fall will be the first class to have their proficiency tested to graduate from high school. The Agency of Education is in the process of creating sample tests for local school boards to review.

A handful of high schools in the state already have proficiency-based graduation requirements, including Brattleboro, Rochester and Montpelier.

Vermont is not the only New England state in the process of developing proficiency requirements. In 2012, Maine passed a law requiring high schools to award diplomas based on proficiency.

Maine schools have until 2018 to implement the new requirements, but in a recent letter to the state’s superintendents, Maine Education Commissioner Jim Rier acknowledged the complexity of the task and said he would grant two-year extensions to schools that need them.

Preparing high school students for college is one of the major goals behind the proposed proficiency requirements. Recently, 55 colleges across New England formally endorsed having proficiency requirements to graduate high school, including the Vermont State Colleges.

“We’re going to see a change in high school graduation requirements that are going to become, increasingly over time, outcome-based and based less on seat time,” said Tim Donovan, chancellor of Vermont State Colleges.

Donovan said approximately 50 percent of students entering the Community College of Vermont need to take some sort of remedial class, an indicator that they are not prepared for higher education.

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