Invitation to ACT 77

posted Sep 21, 2016, 7:37 AM by Elaine Hulett   [ updated Sep 27, 2016, 5:59 AM ]

Please join us for: 

Vermont Legislative Forum

Personal Learning Plans: A Community Discussion on Student Centered Learning (VT Act 77)

Thursday, September 29, 2016 

7:00 pm 

CAPA Symposium | Bennington College

Veronica Newton, Vermont Agency of Education, will be joined by Vermont State Senator Brian Campion, Laura Boudreau (SVSU), Glenda Cresto (MAUHS), Tim Payne (MAUMS), and local educators, students, and parents to discuss Vermont Act 77 and the role of personal learning plans in the education of our students.

Moderated by Susan Sgorbati, Director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action

Open to the public

Contact: | 802-447-4267

Senator Leahy's Response to PFOA Letters from MAUMS

posted Jun 9, 2016, 8:19 AM by Elaine Hulett   [ updated Jun 9, 2016, 8:27 AM ]

Welcome to the New SVSU Website

posted May 20, 2016, 7:14 AM by Elaine Hulett   [ updated Jun 7, 2016, 5:09 AM ]

The SVSU family of websites have been migrated from WIX to the free SVSU Google Apps for Education domain. The goal of the new sites is to provide an improved site appearance, a more streamlined navigation experience and faster webpage load times while decreasing the amount of network resources required by each site visitor. The websites for all the schools within the SVSU follow the same template allowing visitors to more easily find information across the sites.

The contents of each navigation tab drop down menu are described below.

Act 46 Committee Seeks Community Members

posted May 11, 2016, 6:51 AM by Elaine Hulett   [ updated Jul 13, 2016, 8:38 AM ]

May 6, 2016

The Southwest Supervisory Union and member Districts are seeking community members who would like to participate in the Act 46 Study Committee as Community Representatives. Input from the community is an important part of the process of collaboration and possible consolidation. 

The goal of the committee is to develop a plan of action for all districts involved to:
  • Provide substantial equity in the quality and variety of educational opportunities statewide;
  • Lead students to achieve or exceed High Quality Education Standards.
  • Maximize operational efficiencies through increased flexibility to manage, share, and transfer resources, with a goal of increasing the district-level ratio of students to full-time equivalent staff;
  • Promote transparency and accountability; and are delivered at a cost that parents, voters, and taxpayers value.

As a community representative, the expectations would be to:
  • Commit to work as a team member toward positive progress in creating an approved plan – probably 2-4 hours/month from June 2016-July 2017.
  • Represent the community needs and interests in a high quality education system for all students.
  • Be prepared to learn about Act 46 and various topics that need to be collaboratively developed or success of the plan.

Each town board will be accepting applications and letters of interest for appointment at their June meeting. Please mail your application (www.svsu.orgAct 46 Committee") to:

James R. Culkeen, Superintendent
Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union
246 South Stream Road
Bennington, VT 05201

Thank you for your interest in this important process!

Early Childhood Program - Developmental Screenings

posted Mar 1, 2016, 5:05 PM by Elaine Hulett   [ updated Apr 18, 2016, 6:55 AM ]

Developmental screenings are short tests to tell if a child is learning basic skills when he or she should. Free developmental screenings are available for children ages two and a half to five years old.

Upcoming screening dates:
  • May 6, 2016

Please call (802) 447-8419 to make an appointment.

Interpreting Your Child's State SBAC Results

posted Jan 5, 2016, 12:44 PM by Elaine Hulett

  • MAUHS Student Shawn Devlin 
  • Assistant Superintendent Donna Leep 
  • Superintendent James Culkeen 
Produced by:  
  • SVSU Data Coach Melissa Senecal 
  • SVSU Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Laura Boudreau 

Interpreting Your Student's SBAC Results

Early Education Program Earns 5 STARS

posted Nov 25, 2015, 9:34 AM by Elaine Hulett

STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS) 

STARS is Vermont’s quality recognition system for child care, preschool, and afterschool programs. Programs that participate in STARS are stepping ahead — going above and beyond state regulations to provide professional services that meet the needs of children and families.

We are pleased to announce that on November 15, 2015 the SVSU Early Education Program earned a 5 STARS rating when we received a Certificate of Achievement for "demonstrated accomplishments in providing quality child care above and beyond compliance with the State of Vermont's basic regulatory standards for licensed programs".

What the STARS Mean

The more stars a program has, the more it is involved in a wide range of practices that support children, families, and professionals.

  • One-star programs are examining their practices to enhance the services they provide. They may be fairly new, just starting on a path of improvement and growth, or be stronger in one area.
  • Two-star programs are making a commitment to strengthen their practices. They may have made some progress in many areas or more progress in one or two areas.
  • Three-star programs have made improvements and are working to reach specific goals. They have either made substantial progress in two or three areas or have made some improvements across all five areas.
  • Four-star programs are established programs that have met several standards of quality in all five areas. Many four-star programs are also nationally accredited.
  • Five-star programs are outstanding in all five areas. Many five-star programs are also nationally accredited.

Vermont State Board of Education Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability

posted Nov 23, 2015, 8:55 AM by Elaine Hulett   [ updated Mar 1, 2016, 4:53 PM ]

Adopted August 19, 2014

The Vermont State Board of Education is committed to ensuring that all students develop the knowledge, capabilities and dispositions they need to thrive as citizens in their communities, higher education and their careers in the 21st century. The Board of Education’s Education Quality Standards (EQS) rules aim to ensure that all students in Vermont public schools are afforded educational opportunities that are substantially equal in quality, and enable them to achieve or exceed the standards approved by the State Board of Education.

These rules were designed to ensure continuous improvement in student performance, instruction and leadership, so that all students are able to develop high levels of skill and capability across seven essential domains: literacy, mathematics, scientific inquiry and knowledge, global citizenship, physical and health education and wellness, artistic expression, and transferable 21st century skills.

To achieve these goals, educators need to make use of diverse indicators of student learning and strengths, in order to comprehensively assess student progress and adjust their practice to continuously improve learning. They also need to document the opportunities schools provide to further the goals of equity and growth.

Uniform standardized tests, administered across all schools, are a critical tool for schools’ improvement efforts. Without some stable and valid external measure, we cannot evaluate how effective we are in our efforts to improve schools and learning. Standardized tests – along with teacher-developed assessments and student work samples -- can give educators and citizens insight into the skills, knowledge and capabilities our students have developed.

What standardized tests can do that teacher developed tests cannot do is give us reliable, comparative data. We can use test scores to tell whether we are doing better over time. Of particular note, standardized tests help monitor how well we serve students with different life circumstances and challenges. When used appropriately, standardized tests are a sound and objective way to evaluate student progress.

Despite their value, there are many things tests cannot tell us. Standardized tests like the NECAP and soon, the SBAC, can tell us something about how students are doing in a limited set of narrowly defined subjects overall, as measured at a given time. However, they cannot tell us how to help students do even better. Nor can they adequately capture the strengths of all children, nor the growth that can be ascribed to individual teachers. And under high-stakes conditions, when schools feel extraordinary pressure to raise scores, even rising scores may not be a signal that students are actually learning more. At best, a standardized test is an incomplete picture of learning: without additional measures, a single test is inadequate to capture a years’ worth of learning and growth.

Along a related dimension, the American Psychological Association wrote:

“(N)o test is valid for all purposes. Indeed, tests vary in their intended uses and in their ability to provide meaningful assessments of student learning. Therefore, while the goal of using large-scale testing to measure and improve student and school system performance is laudable, it is also critical that such tests are sound, are scored properly, and are used appropriately.” Unfortunately, the way in which standardized tests have been used under federal law as almost the single measure of school quality has resulted in the frequent misuse of these instruments across the nation.

Because of the risk of inappropriate uses of testing, the Vermont State Board of Education herewith adopts a series of guiding principles for the appropriate use of standardized tests to support continuous improvements of learning.
1. The Proper Role of Standardized Testing – The purpose of any large scale assessment must be clearly stated and the assessments must be demonstrated as scientifically and empirically valid for that purpose(s) prior to their use. This includes research and verification as to whether a student’s performance on tests is actually predictive of performance on other indicators we care about, including post-secondary success, graduation rates and future employment.

In addition, standardized test results should be used only in concert with a diverse set of measures that capture evidence of student growth and school impact across all important outcomes outlined in the Education Quality Standards.

2. Public Reporting Requirement - It is a state and local obligation to report on the quality of the schools to the citizenry. Standardized testing is part of this reporting obligation. The state board encourages local public reporting of a diverse and comprehensive set of school quality indicators in local school, faculty and community communications.

3. Judicious and Proportionate Testing - The State Board of Education advocates for reducing the amount of time spent on summative, standardized testing and encourages the federal government to reduce the current requirements for annual testing in multiple subjects in every grade, 3-8, and then again in high school. Excessive testing diverts resources and time away from learning while providing little additional value for accountability purposes.

4. Test Development Criteria - Any broad scale standardized assessment used in the state of Vermont must be developed and used appropriately in accord with the principles adopted by the American Educational Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the American Psychological Association.

5. Value-added scores – Although the federal government is encouraging states to use value added scores for teacher, principal and school evaluations, this policy direction is not appropriate. A strong body of recent research has found that there is no valid method of calculating “value-added” scores which compare pass rates from one year to the next, nor do current value-added models adequately account for factors outside the school that influence student performance scores. Thus, other than for research or experimental purposes, this technique will not be employed in Vermont schools for any consequential purpose.

6. Mastery level or Cut-Off scores – While the federal government continues to require the use of subjectively determined, cut-off scores; employing such metrics lacks scientific foundation. The skills needed for success in society are rich and diverse. Consequently, there is no single point on a testing scale that has proven accurate in measuring the success of a school or in measuring the talents of an individual. Claims to the contrary are technically indefensible and their application would be unethical.

The use of cut-off scores reports findings only at one point on a statistical distribution. Scale scores provide significantly more information. They allow a more valid disaggregation of scores by sub-group, provide better measures of progress and provide a more comprehensive view of achievement gaps.

7. Use of cut scores and proficiency categories for reporting purposes - Under NCLB states are required to report school level test results in terms of the Percentage of Proficient Students. The federally mandated reporting method has several well-documented negative effects that compromise our ability to meaningfully examine schools’ improvement efforts:
  • Interpretations based on “percent proficient” hides the full range of scores and how they have changed. Thus, underlying trends in performance are often hidden.
  • The targets established for proficiency are subjectively determined and are not based on research. Interpretations based on “percent proficient” also lack predictive validity.
  • Modest changes to these subjective cut scores can dramatically affect the percent of students who meet the target. Whether a cut score is set high or low arbitrarily changes the size of the achievement gap independent of the students’ learning. Thus, the results can be misleading.
  • So that we can more validly and meaningfully describe school- and state-level progress, the State Board of Education endorses reporting performance in terms of scale scores and standard deviations rather than percent proficient. We will comply with federal requirements, but will emphasize defensible and useful reporting metrics.
8. The Federal, State and Local Obligation for Assuring Adequacy and Equality of Opportunity – Much as the state must insure a high quality education for all children, the school must be provided with adequate and equitable resources from the federal, state and local governments and must use these resources wisely and judiciously. Thus, any report on a school based on the state’s EQS standards must also include a report on the adequacy of resources provided by or to that school in light of the school’s unique needs. Such evaluations shall address the adequacy of resources, the judicious use of resources and identify any deficiencies.

Resolution on Assessment and Accountability Vermont State Board of Education

WHEREAS, our nation and Vermont's future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s and the state’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation's school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in the nation’s public schools by hampering educators' efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, a compelling body of national research shows the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in areas such as narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education requests that the Secretary of Education reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which has at its center qualitative assessments, does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, decreases the role of compliance monitoring, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on the United States Congress and Administration to accordingly amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act") to reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states; and

RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on other state and national organizations to act in concert with these goals to improve and broaden educational goals, provide adequate resources, and ensure a high quality education for all children of the state and the nation.

Free meals for ALL students starting this fall

posted Nov 23, 2015, 8:38 AM by Elaine Hulett   [ updated Mar 1, 2016, 4:57 PM ]

Every child attending Mt. Anthony Union Middle & High Schools; Prekindergarten at Molly & Division St.; and Shaftsbury, Woodford, Pownal, Monument, Bennington, and Molly Stark Elementary Schools can now eat complete, nutritious and reimbursable breakfast and lunch approved by the program for free.

The federal government’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is structured to provide funding for free meals for economically disadvantaged school districts. The SVSU has determined that all public schools within the SVSU qualify and will participate in the 2015-2016 school year program. Participating in the CEP program, allows the SVSU to receive federal reimbursement for up to 100 percent of meals served.

“Finally, the math makes sense. The entire SVSU community benefits from our participation in CEP. All families qualify for free meals. A family of four who paid for breakfast and lunch last year can experience a savings of $1,200 this year. That is real money families can use to relieve pressure off their personal finances or increase their purchasing power in our local economy. It truly is a win-win for everyone.” says SVSU Chief Financial Officer, Richard C. Pembroke, Jr., SFO.

Every family is welcome and encouraged to take advantage of this new program. Participation is not required as children can still come to school with a meal from home. Snacks, snack milks, ala carte or second meals will continue to be charged at the current rates.

“With improved food quality, efficient food distribution methods and increased staff, we are ready to respond to the expected increase in meal participation. Schools within the program have experienced a 10% to 40% increase in breakfast participation,” says Maureen O’Neil, Southern Vermont Food Service Director from the Abbey Group who is working closely with the SVSU to implement the new program.

Across all SVSU public schools, 2900 students will now have the opportunity to eat two complete, nutritious and reimbursable meals approved by the program every school day without the stigma of being different from other students. This alone is expected to increase meal participation.

“The potential of the CEP program is truly exciting,” says SVSU Superintendent, James R. Culkeen. “Schools already participating have reported an increase in student attentiveness, fewer reports of student hunger, fewer disciplinary referrals and fewer visits to the school nurse. All of these elements make a great recipe for student success and enables them to perform at their best.”

Every Breakfast. Every Lunch.

posted Nov 23, 2015, 8:35 AM by Elaine Hulett

August 21, 2015

Dear Parent or Guardian,

We are committed to providing every student in our school community with all the tools they need to succeed, including nutritious breakfast and lunch that everyone can enjoy together. That is why we are excited to announce that this year; all public schools within the SVSU are enrolled in a new program offering complete, nutritious and reimbursable meals approved by the program every school day to all students at no charge.

All children enrolled in public schools within the SVSU can eat for free.
I am writing to share with you this exciting news and to ask that you help us ensure our meal program is a success by having your child participate in school breakfast and lunch every single school day. It is important that everyone participate in our universal meal program because…

Part of what makes a great school culture is everyone sharing a meal together.
When all of our students are eating together, our cafeteria will become a place to learn more about new foods together, make healthy choices, and fuel up for learning and play.

Participating in school breakfast and lunch helps your school and your community.
The more students who participate in school lunch and breakfast, the more our schools receive in federal reimbursement for meals served. This additional money enables us to improve our program by introducing higher quality ingredients and healthy food choices.

Participating in school breakfast and lunch helps your family.
Participating in school breakfast and lunch helps provide nutritious food for your children at school so they can concentrate better and learn more, and saves you valuable time and money at home.

I hope you will join me and the school community in supporting this exciting new program by participating in school breakfast and lunch this year. Please feel free to contact your school with any questions and to discuss any special dietary needs.


James R. Culkeen

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