The Vermont Department of Education, in cooperation with IBM, is launching a web-based system to help teachers make the state’s academic standards more relevant and useful in the classroom. Called “Putting Standards Into Action,” the online system includes an instructional planning tool, an assessment management tool, and an online teacher forum—all tied to the state’s standards database.

Any Vermont teacher will be able to log on to the system for free using a password and an internet browser from home or school. Using the instructional planning tool, a teacher creates a lesson plan and adds it to a database of classroom activities. The teacher would identify at least one state standard related to the lesson and then use keywords or reference numbers to access that Vermont standard or additional standards from other respected sources, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The database will include lessons from many sources. When the teacher’s lesson plan is completed, the teacher saves it to the Vermont database, where it can be called up by other teachers. Eventually, Vermont officials hope, there will be a vast collection of lessons based on the state standards.

Next, the teacher can turn on the assessment tool. The system asks the teacher to complete a scoring guide that displays criteria for success. The Vermont system will record assessment results to let teachers analyze how their classes are doing relative to the state standards. The education department is creating a database that will include each of the state’s 104,000 K-12 students. Using various levels of access controlled by passwords, teachers, administrators, and state officials will be able to analyze assessment results.

The assessment tool also will allow a teacher to score a sample of a student’s work, such as an essay question, and then compare that score to the score assigned by a panel of expert teachers. State officials say such “calibrating” or “norming” will enable teachers even in remote areas to get a better idea of what to expect from students.

Vermont officials say they are committed to providing teachers with enough training to use the system effectively. They note that Vermont long has been a leader in portfolio-based assessment, and they say that experience might give Vermont teachers the desire to use the online system.

IBM hopes the system will work, too. The company wants to bundle a commercial version of the tool set with its “Wired for Learning” school information products and sell them nationwide.