Vermont’s education system is a mess


Dear Editor,

The new Career and Technical Education report from outside consultants strengthens the argument that Vermont’s education system is a mess. 

After over 40 years teaching and helping to plan education reforms around the world, I believe that Vermont’s continuing commitment to fixing what’s broken in different silos of the system and within those silos will not produce the educated people Vermont needs, no matter which proposals are adopted. The same is true for preschool childhood development, K-12 schooling, and the higher education system. 

In every one of these subsystems, we continue to behave like hill farmers with a broken tractor. The challenge for them was to get the tractor going again. It didn’t matter that they might have the wrong tractor for their farm’s terrain or for the crops they were growing. 

For Vermont’s preschool children, the discussions and legislation mostly address how to pay staff better and to babysit them. I don’t know of any discussions among the plethora of early childhood organizations about the overall development of children before their schooling starts, or of creating a statewide structure that pursues the objectives for childhood development. 

I’ve watched the K-12 system’s enrollments decline every year while per-pupil costs increase, and the continually changing tests that measure learning outcomes have obfuscated what I believe is a decline in students’ learning. 

This decline started well before the Covid excuse came along. The Vermont Dept. of Education’s embargo on releasing the 2020 or 2022 test results may be because of the results, not all of which can be explained by Covid.

At the tertiary level, we have watched the multiple reconfigurations of the state college system over the last few years and UVM’s continuing upheavals over enrollment levels, housing, and the leadership’s conflicts with students, the faculty, and staff. 

Can anyone doubt that changing college names, their organizational relations, what books they have, and the failure of dialogues on different campuses collectively suggest that the system needs a careful long-term consideration?

Ward Heneveld

Enosburg Falls

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