Standard Adult High School Diploma Task Force

Vermont Adult Diploma Program

Phone call with Toni Marra and Frank Gerdman

Friday September 27, 2013


Vermont has had the Competency Based Diploma in place for 30 years or more. It has always been project based.


The cut scores to enter the program are:

· Reading NRS Level 5
· Math NRS Level 5
· Writing NRS Level 4

Assessments: CASAS and TABE are used, which are standardized assessments used for federal purposes in Adult Basic Education.

Students must be 20 years of age or older. A waiver can be obtained to serve 18 and 19 year olds.

Students Served

Forty two percent of students are ages 25-44 years old. Sixty percent are Female, and 40% are male.

120 Graduates in 2012-2013. Larger programs have 25 grads per year. Small programs have 2 grads per year.

State Model

Vermont has a small Adult Basic Education state staff, due to its small size. Toni Marra is the state adult diploma program specialist, providing a lot of technical assistance to local programs.

Local Roles and Procedures

The state is small - there are 4 agencies with 10 full time service centers. All local programs in Vermont have an Adult Diploma Program. There are 14 ADP Assessors state-wide.

When a student wants to begin the program, they meet with a local assessor to discuss the program. Assessors are not the instructors, but they are guiding students through the projects. Some Assessors travel to cover multiple sites.

There are 9 projects to choose from. Students need to choose 5 projects with the guidance of an assessor.

Generally speaking, students meet with the assessor weekly to go over projects. Sometimes students meet daily; sometimes it is every 2 weeks. Weekly is desired and works for most students.

The program is portable from one agency to the next since the projects are designed state-wide. Transcripts are created by the district on paper and can be requested from them when students move or need them for school or employment. The diploma is granted by the local district and it looks the same as any other high school diploma.


EFF Standards as well as Vermont K-12 and OVAE CCR Standards are used. They use EFF but incorporate the other standards into the projects. Everyone does a Personal Profile project. If students are college bound, they complete the Bridges to Higher Education project and if they are looking at work afterwards they take the Getting a Job project. There is a Capstone project that allows for creativity on the students part.

As standards change, the state adult diploma specialist leads a collaborative effort to update the projects and standards to meet the new standards. This has been done recently to align to Vermont’s graduation standards

Who trains the assessors?


Toni Marra provides some training. The main training comes from mentoring by other assessors who have experience. Every center is different on how they train the assessors. This is an area that is currently under review and may be more standardized by Vermont.


The 14 local assessors meet monthly with Toni to touch base and troubleshoot issues.


There is a formula in statute; a specific amount of state funding is allocated for adult diploma programming. The funding mechanisms in Vermont differ than Minnesota’s Adult Basic Education system. In Vermont, Adult Diploma funding is based on:

1. The number of participants in the program;
2. “Outcome” based funds (number of projects completed by students and number of students graduating); and
3. Direct service time.

Secondary Credential Options

Note: In Vermont there is no age cut off for high school funding. Students can attend after age 21. So the three options are:

1. GED
2. Credit based high school diploma (keep going to HS)
3. ADP - this program is a niche for those who have some life experience, can work well on their own, do not have time to attend classes and don’t test well.

Who is missed by this model?

· Those with lower than NRS level cut scores.

· Those who struggle with an independent study model.