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HB 682 requires that students attending approved independent schools must “satisfactorily complete a standards-based performance assessment” in order to graduate from high school. According to the bill, “The department [of education] shall determine the nature and content of the assessment, which shall be the minimum standard required for secondary school graduation.”
According to HB 682, students who “satisfactorily complete a standards-based performance assessment” set by the department of education can graduate early. Conversely, students who have not “satisfactorily completed a standards-based performance assessment” set by the department of education cannot graduate from high school until they do so (students who fail will be “provided additional opportunities to do so.”)
This conflicts with Vermont’s current law in several important respects. First, Vermont law currently provides parents with several options for assessing the student’s educational progress (report by a certified teacher, report by the parents accompanied by a portfolio of the student’s work, or standardized testing results), and the choice of the method rests solely in the parent. Vt. Stat. Ann. Tit. 16, § 166b(d). Here, however, parents will lose the choice of which method to employ during the student’s final year of high school (since “graduation” is contingent upon “satisfactorily complet[ing] a standards-based performance assessment” set by the department of education). While these requirements are fine for public schools, and maybe even accredited private schools, because the bill’s text also includes homeschools, it would expose homeschools to another layer of testing—at the discretion of the state department of education.
Second, Vermont’s compulsory attendance law already sets the maximum required age of attendance at 16. Vermont Statutes Annotated Title 16, § 1121. All that the bill does is permit early graduation for highly motivated 16-year-olds, while still preserving their right (as high school graduates) to still access college prep, technical ed, and other high school programs usually offered through public schools. Homeschool graduates can already graduate early, at 16 (because the compulsory attendance law no longer applies at age 16), so long as the parent deems that the child has finished his or her high school course work at that time. The current bill seems to substitute the parent’s judgment that the child has completed high school course work with the department of education’s judgment, through this state-mandated performance test. True, homeschool graduates over the age of 16 who took this test would then have access to technical ed, college prep, and other public school courses reserved for current students, but that seems like a steep price to pay for a new state-created testing regime.
The third and final objection is that this bill, on its face, seems to apply to all secondary school students, not just to early graduation students. The bill doesn’t say, “if a student wants to graduate from high school at age 16, he needs to take this special performance test that we’ll specify.” Instead, the bill says that “No publicly funded student attending . . . an approved independent school shall meet the requirements for secondary school graduation unless the student has satisfactorily completed a standards-based performance assessment pursuant to this subsection,” subsection (g), and that the department of education “shall determine the nature and content of the minimum standard required for secondary school graduation.” Subsection (g)(1). So, any high school student—public school, private school, homeschool, age 16, age 17, age 18, age 19—can stop school at age 16 (when compulsory attendance ends), but if they want to graduate, that same exhaustive list of high school students—public school, private school, home school, age 16, age 17, age 18, age 19—would need to “meet the requirements for secondary school graduation” set by the state department of education. Otherwise, they will not be considered to have “graduated” from high school. This is a steep regulatory price to pay for a relatively marginal benefit.
01/31/2012 (House) Introduced and Referred to the Education Committee
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