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To the Editor:
Vermonters have long consoled themselves with the fact that even though we pay the highest per child cost of education in the country (over $13,000 per child per year), the education our children were receiving was "first-rate, high quality, one of the best in the country."
The results of the 11th-grade NECAP math and writing exam expose the sad reality: The overwhelming majority of our 11th-graders are semi-literate writers and have not learned basic algebra or geometry. Seventy percent of 11th-graders scored below "proficient" in math, and 61 percent scored below "proficient" in writing.
Some attempted to explain away these results by asserting that the tests were set at too high of a standard. Vermont Education Commissioner Richard Cate said, "I would argue that if you look at the content, it really isn't that tough." Little comfort should be taken by our Valley community in the fact that Harwood students performed better than the state average (53 percent of Harwood students performed less than proficient in math and 52 percent less than proficient in writing).
Commissioner Cate continued, "We can't let this stand. We have to figure out what's going on and deal with it." What's going on? Answer: Our children are failing to learn basic communication and math skills from elementary school onward. Ask any 9th- or 10th-grade teacher who has been teaching for more than 10 years about the noticeable change in preparation for high school studies.
The 11th-grade results are the culmination of a downward trend that starts in elementary school on grade-to-grade measures of proficiency in math and writing. The No Child Left Behind Act has provided the only opportunity that parents have to objectively assess what our children have been learning. Enactment of NCLB was strongly opposed by the "educational establishment" and their supporters.
If the act had not passed we would undoubtedly still be in the dark and would have continued to be on the receiving end of unending laudatory reports regarding the "high quality" of our schools. We now have the opportunity to redefine "high-quality schools" and to demand accountability from our educators, our children and ourselves.
Editor's Note: The criteria used by the state of Vermont in NECAP testing includes four levels of results: proficient with distinction, proficient, partially proficient and substantially below proficient.
Lanser, in his letter, is lumping partially proficient with substantially below proficient in charging that majorities of local and Vermont student are "semi-literate writers and have not learned basic algebra or geometry."