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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Vermont teachers try proficiency-based ed

Vermont teachers are trying to figure out how to meet the state’s mandate for Proficiency-Based Education in grades 7 to 12, writes Math Curmudgeon.

In the four years since Act 77 passed, teachers have written “only four modules for our courses because teachers whine ‘We don’t know what you are asking us to do’ and, since the person in charge of PD doesn’t really know what the end goals should be and what PBE looks like in practice, we waste lots of time making empathy maps, rating and watching videos that are demonstrably ridiculous, and other tasks that don’t really advance the program.”

At a conference one month age, state Agency of Education (AOE) officials could provide no guidance.

When I ask for sample transcripts, I get “We don’t know. This conference is for you teachers to tell us what a typical graduate should be able to do and be.” Ask for sample curricula, or sample frameworks, or sample anything and you get “We can’t tell you because we don’t have any of that and you have local control.” . . . Much of the Vermont AOE website focuses on convincing people that this is a good idea, rather than on what this idea actually should look like in practice. Here, you can look for yourself.

At his high school, the administrators are willing to let teachers explore “and possibly fail on our way to succeeding,” writes Math Curmudgeon. But he worries that a rocky transition will destroy the initiative — and mess up the education of his students.

Ed Week looks at the push for personalized pathways, which is another part of Vermont’s innovation mandate.

Districts are taking very different approaches, said Julie Longchamp, director of professional programs for Vermont-NEA, the state teachers’ union. “Who is measuring the effectiveness of all this work?” she asked. “How do we know students are learning more? I wish there was a better vehicle for teachers to communicate district to district on successes and challenges.”

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