The Senate Education Committee revisited Education Quality Standards (EQSs) on Wednesday with Heather Bouchey (Deputy Secretary, Agency of Education).
Chairman Campion expressed the same concerns that Senator Gulick has shared about quality standards in independent schools. He admitted these are policy areas that they dive into at their own risk as it is the Agency of Education (AOE) professional policy that may be hard to understand for non-teachers. He asked Bouchey what factors may differ between public and independent schools.
She shared that Act 1 primarily formed the working group to develop proposals around ethnic studies and social justice. It was the primary goal to develop and choose appropriate terminology that also met approval of the groups like the historically marginalized, BIPOC, and students of color; for many, these labels did not work.
EQS was the response of State Board of Education (SBE) going back to Title 16 in the mid-1980’s when it went through the 2200 rule series and developed EQS system. Bouchey has a presentation for the SBE where she teaches the basics about how the law and rules are made.
Public schools have to adhere to what is known as district quality standards. These are somewhat different from EQS; for example, where it pertains to pre-k. independent schools are also not required to set up a “multi-tier support system.”
Bouchey explained the difference between Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), which is a federal special education designation, and Personalized Learning Plans, which all students have in CTEs and public schools.
Bouchey explained these current standards will not change in the short term so much as “be added to” EQS.
Sharon Howell (Headmaster, Saint Johnsbury Academy) was up next. Senator Gulick asked if EQS has become part of the work they will be doing at the Saint Johnsbury Academy.
Howell began explaining NEASC accreditations and how independent schools all over New England utilize this tool. The first step in this process is a self-study on 15 standards. During this process the school engages with many stakeholders and it requires lots of materials like budgets, curriculums and policies. A visiting committee of peers from other independent schools is formed to evaluate the self-assessment and provide feedback to both the school and the accrediting agency.
Finally, the review is completed and results in accreditation, conditional approval, or denial. After two years, a follow-up on recommendations and compliance is provided. Then a more comprehensive 5-year report asks for some future planning & strategic thinking.
Gulick commented that she was involved in an NEASC accreditation in 2010 at a high school where she helped draft some of the submissions. She thanked Howell for the very helpful review of the process which helped update her understanding.
Campion reminded the committee that the State Board of Education made rule changes to the 2200 rule series last year that prevent Approved Independent Schools from discriminating against students.