Challenging our strongest academic achievers

How CVU supports students in a standards-based environment

By Lia Cravedi, Susan Grasso and Kim Schmitt

Special to the Observer

How does Champlain Valley Union High School support students, not just who are struggling to meet the standards identified as critical to future success but also those for whom learning comes easily? To learn how CVU is challenging them, the CVU School Board communications committee sent questions to Principal Adam Bunting and his colleagues. The responses follow.

Philosophically, what responsibility do you believe a school system has to students who exceed performance-based standards?

It is our responsibility to meet every learner where they are, academically and emotionally. As our mission states, we aim to empower students to pursue excellence in their individual interests. True engagement means feeling appropriately challenged.

What programs and opportunities are available to such students that enable them to continue to develop, even when they are already achieving or exceeding grade-level standards?

Teachers provide students with ongoing opportunities to enhance expertise with deep transferable skills, no matter the grade-level or class; however, we have been focused on normalizing the concept of flexible pathways to graduation. Students’ needs, strengths and interests vary from individual to individual. The more opportunities students have to earn a diploma in as engaging a manner as possible the more likely it is our students will be successful down the road.

Such pathways include: dual enrollment (i.e. coursework in both college and high school), broad curriculum choices, Nexus (self-designed learning hub), Virtual High School (or VHS, i.e. online courses), Go Out and Learn (GOAL), Independent Study, internships, apprenticeships, Center for Technology-Essex (CTE) or Burlington Technical Center (BTC) and more.

To what extent are CVU students taking advantage of these resources?

Twenty-eight students are earning academic credit (and others are in it for elective credit) in GOAL, a program that offers students the opportunity to pursue an individualized program of study in a particular area of interest.

Thirty-one students are enrolled in the technology center in Essex; 15 are at Burlington

Thirty-nine students took online courses, with the majority of students who enrolled finishing their course work. Some students took more than one course.

Six students participated in interest-driven programs like ski programs, horse programs, etc.

Dual enrollment numbers — Summer 2015: 7; Fall 2015: 13; Spring 2016: 38; Summer 2016: 38

Are there systems in place to assess the impact of these school-based opportunities?

We gather evidence of the effectiveness of opportunities to our students in these methods:

1- Standards-based grading and reporting (full school moving to JumpRope*)

2- Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs)/Exhibitions

3-Variety of Surveys (self-reported progress)

4-Personal Connections


6-Student Council, Principal Advisory Group, Program Council

*JumpRope is a new electronic platform that includes a standards-based grade book among other features that supports CVU initiatives.

What, if any, changes are you considering that would improve the current system?

With the move towards full standards-based grading and reporting next year, we will have much more data on our system’s and individual students’ progress. We are [also] shifting our weekly calendar to provide more opportunity to apply learning beyond classroom and school walls. In addition, students will be asked to take a more active role in their school experience as we focus on personalized learning plans.

The committee’s conclusion is that CVU administrators, faculty and staff continue to work to meet the needs of all students. Though they may not be 100 percent successful yet, their ongoing efforts will surely have a positive impact on our children’s academic and emotional development.

The CVU School Board Communications Committee prepares regular updates on discussions being held by the school board. To reach the communications members, contact Lia Cravedi, School Board Director, Hinesburg,; Susan Grasso, Community Member, Shelburne, or Kim Schmitt, School Board Director, Shelburne, kschmitt@cssu.or