On 'Best Of' Lists, How Do Vermont Schools Measure Up?

Aug 6, 2014

Granted, there are "best of" lists all over the Internet, but with back to school time just around the corner, it was interesting to come across a few lists this week mentioning Vermont schools.

Wallethub.com creates all kinds of lists, mostly related to personal finance topics. This week the site released its 2014 list of States with the Best and Worst School Systems, and Vermont ranked third in the country behind New Jersey and Massachusetts. New Hampshire ranked fourth and New York came in 20th. The District of Columbia was at the bottom of the list.

About its methodology, WalletHub states:

We used 12 key metrics, including student-teacher ratios, dropout rates, test scores and bullying incident rates to assess the quality of education in each state.

Vermont topped the list for lowest student-teacher ratio. In the lowest dropout rate category, Vermont tied for second place with Nebraska, Wisconsin and Texas. Iowa topped the list for lowest dropout rate.

Vermont was second only to Wisconsin for school safety. With that in mind, it's ironic that Vermont schools were among those with the highest rate of bullying incidents. Only Maine, Missouri, Michigan and Idaho had higher bullying rates.

TheBestSchools.org is another website that creates a lot of lists. This week VPR's Public Post came across a list that was published in April, ranking the 50 best middle schools in the country. The only Vermont school to make that list was Stowe Middle School, which ranked second behind Community Day Charter School in Lawrence, MA.

The Best Schools explained its methodology this way:

For this study, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results in science, math, and reading for 8th graders were used as a principal (but not the sole) basis for comparison of schools. The NAEP administers the same test nationally so that one standard is applied to each student no matter which state they live in.

In the case of other common standardized test assessments, each state creates and administers its own tests, which makes cross-state comparisons difficult. That is the reason why we emphasize the NAEP. However, state assessment scores were also examined, where available, and weighed together with the NAEP scores.

Finally, other factors such as awards and rankings and geographical diversity were also taken into account.

When test scores are used to determine a school's ranking, it does make a difference which tests are included in the study. The website SchoolDigger.com compares Vermont schools using scores from the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests. School Digger ranks schools serving middle grade students using the NECAP math and reading assessments. Using this methodology, the site ranked Stowe Middle and High School fourth in Vermont. Interestingly, the top three were all elementary/middle schools:

  1. Montgomery Center School
  2. Folsum Education & Community Center (South Hero)
  3. Charlotte Central School

Using the eleventh grade NECAPs in math and reading, School Digger named the top high schools in Vermont:

  1. Craftsbury
  2. Stowe
  3. South Burlington

Elementary school rankings were determined using math and reading NECAP scores for third, fourth and fifth graders. The top three are:

  1. Canal Street/Oak Grove Schools (Brattleboro)
  2. Marion W. Cross School (Norwich)
  3. Rumney School (Middlesex)

Of course, test scores and school ranking change every year. The above rankings are based on 2013-2014 school year statistics.