Gov. Peter Shumlin wasted no time in getting down to work to improve education in Vermont. In his second inaugural address, the Governor outlined several areas of focus to ensure that Vermont continues to lead in education.
Expanding pre-school opportunities for all kids is a high priority because we know children who enter kindergarten ready to learn are better prepared to be successful in school. The Governor is also dedicated to closing the achievement gap for children whose families struggle financially. His goal of reducing the obstacles for children to receive nutritious breakfasts and lunches at school is close to being a reality. This means that children who are currently receiving reduced rate meals will now be eligible to receive both breakfast and lunch at no cost. For many families the eligibility for receiving free versus reduced-priced meals is the difference of only a few dollars in monthly income. This is the first step in addressing the achievement gap, and as we look to the future we want to ensure free meals for all students in Vermont's schools.
Education is complex and ever-changing, and for this reason the focus of this piece will be on expanding high school opportunities for our kids. First, we need to accept and embrace the fact that high school today is different than it was for most of us. The structure of America's high schools has not changed much over the past 75 years. However, our entire world has changed. How can we expect to get better results using a system that was designed to accommodate an agricultural economy? We have no choice but to make the shift for our students' and our state's future.
High school education today should not be limited to the "school building" but rather high schools should be the conduits for expanding learning and opportunities. This includes virtual learning, internships, dual enrollment, applied learning and aligning graduation requirements to the needs of the state and the country. The Governor supports dual enrollment -- when a high school student takes a college level class while still in high school, earning both high school and college credit simultaneously. Dual enrollment should not be an "extra" but rather an integral part of a high school student's educational opportunities. Dual enrollment provides a powerful college experience for high school students, not just the high achievers, but students who may not otherwise consider post-secondary education. For many students this is an excellent opportunity that can lead them to be the first in their families to go to college.