To the editor: School rankings depend on more than tests

Mount Holly and Ludlow will be voting on May 30 whether or not to close Black River HS and send their 7 – 12th grade students to Mill River HS.

Some folks have been saying that Mill River ranks higher than Black River HS, but Vermont does not have a ranking list for its high schools. No such animal exists on the Agency of Education website, though one year of the state-wide SBAC test results can be found. “At least three years of test results are needed to analyze trends,” according to Michael Hock, the Agency of Education’s director of assessment. That’s especially important when analyzing the results for small schools where 1 very bright student or 1 very disadvantaged student can make a big difference.

School Digger analyzed the latest data and noted that the best performing schools had 12% or less students taking free or reduced price lunch, an indicator of poverty. The data also revealed that poorly performing schools had more special education students. “Teachers at the highest performing schools had an average salary of $65,000” while those at the other end of the spectrum were paid an average of $52,000.

There are too many factors to be able to say one school is number 10, 20 or whatever. Mill River sends kids to prestigious colleges. Black River sends kids to prestigious colleges. One of Mill River’s strengths is its drama program. One of Black River’s strengths is its Special Ed programs.

Maybe the most obvious difference is pointed out on the vote yes poster with its yellow school bus filled with smiling chubby faces. Vote yes and we are guaranteed to have our children spending 3 to 4 or more hours each day riding on a bus. Get after school help? Nope, ride the bus. Walk to Dorsey Park for a game? Nope, ride the bus. Three to four hours a day, ride the bus!

Carol Ballou

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