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Conclusions

The education reform goals listed in this newsletter are not the only initiatives worth exploring.  There are many others, including  merit pay, special education reform, literacy programs that work, instructional techniques that show promise, privatization programs and more.  These ideas are also worthy of discussion, perhaps eventual enactment in policy or law.  However, we have attempted to focus on four crucial ideas from which other improvements can flow.  These four reform ideas can act as a foundation upon which more reform can be built.

School choice is one of the cornerstones of this foundation.  Only under school choice programs will you see long-lasting, sustainable reforms as education becomes more consumer-oriented. As school administrators begin to view their institutions as serving students and parents rather than as serving boards and bureaucracies, change is swift and meaningful.  As parents are given more freedom to select educational environments for their children, they become savvier and more involved consumers.

Along with school choice, however, comes the need for model academic standards and reliable ways to assess progress.  This information will be crucial under a school choice regime.  The state education department can and should act as a clearinghouse for this information.

Finally, ensuring that schools are employing high-quality teachers is at the crux of any education reform initiative. No amount of “bells and whistles” on a school can make up for deficiencies in teaching.  Small classes, computers in the classroom, innovative textbooks, superior facilities, excellent sports programs — none of these equals the importance of quality teachers who know their subjects and are able to communicate effectively with students.  A minimum requirement of any education reform effort must be the re-evaluation of teacher preparation and the introduction of teacher competency testing for all teachers — not just those just entering the field now.

Vermonters for Better Education is committed to informing the public about these four reform ideas and to providing materials to those interested in learning more.

Where We Should Be — The Goals
  • More school choice: through charter schools, voucher programs, open enrollment, postsecondary options, expansion of the tuitioning town system.  These proposals would require legislative action.
  • Academic rigor: state standards should be based on high ACADEMIC goals and not influenced by political or social agendas.  Even so, VBE recommends that state standards be guidelines and models, not mandates. This goal can be accomplished through legislation or directives from the state board of education.
  • Reliable assessments: Rather than paying large amounts of taxpayers’ dollars for unreliable testing programs, VBE recommends that the state should simply require schools to administer national norm-referenced standardized tests, collect the data on those tests and make it available to the public. VBE believes the New Standards Reference Exam and portfolio systems currently in use should be stopped.  Participation in the National Assessment of Educational Progress should continue.  This goal can be accomplished through legislation and/or directives from the state board of education.
  • Better teachers: All teachers, not just those newly entering the profession, should demonstrate their knowledge by taking a test before being granted licensure. This can be accomplished through legislation and/or directives from the state board of education.
Goal #4: Better Teachers < | > Resources for More Info

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