Governor welcomes challenge in new standardized testing for students

Gov. Peter Shumlin interacts with children at Montpelier's Family Center, a center for early child-care education. VTD Photo/Nat Rudarakanchana

Gov. Peter Shumlin interacts with children at Montpelier’s Family Center, a center for early child-care education. VTD Photo/Nat Rudarakanchana

Next school year, Vermont will scrap the NECAP and replace it with a new student assessment based on the Common Core State Standards. It’s more than a matter of slapping down a different test down in front of students, but officials say the state is in good shape to make the overhaul.

Vermont’s in good company during the transition — 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, and they are in various stages of putting them in place. Vermont is one of more than two dozen states that have signed up to use the Smarter Balance Assessment — a test modeled on the Common Core.

One school year away from when most states will make the switch to Common Core-based exams, opposition to the standards is coalescing to the point where several states have gotten cold feet. Georgia and Oklahoma bowed out in July, citing costs, and Indiana recently decided to shelve the standards for now. In Kentucky and New York, where students are already taking the new exams, proficiency levels have plummeted.

Neither Gov. Peter Shumlin nor Education Secretary, Armando Vilaseca are worried about a backlash against the standards if a similar thing occurs in Vermont.

“That isn’t my concern. I never think that rigorous standards that make sense are a destructive thing, I think they are a positive thing,” Shumlin said.

Vilaseca said he does expect proficiency levels to drop. “I do anticipate the first year or two of our assessment may show a decline. We are going to standards that are higher and more complex and ask more of our students.”

But he’s hoping it will just be a two-year blip. “I anticipate within a few years, once the schools have enacted a curriculum aligned with the Common Core, we will see scores increase above where they are now.”

The Common Core was designed to improve uniformity across state standards for kindergarten through 12th-grade and to make those standards more demanding. Supporters hope they’ll make American students better equipped for higher education and employment in a global economy.

Vilaseca said he thinks Vermont is taking a more prudent approach than New York did.

Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca. VTD/Josh Larkin

Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca. VTD/Josh Larkin

“Personally, I thought that was a huge mistake on New York’s part [switching to a Common Core exam ahead of the 2014-2015 school year]. Some schools were still trying to get their toes in the water. I don’t believe they were prepared.”

The standards “make sense,” Shumlin said, but, he added, “what concerns me, when we get into the weeds of Common Core, is ensuring that as we implement it, it doesn’t get in the way of our efforts to individualize education for every student.

“My concern about any federal mandate, including Common Core, is that it tends to take a cookie-cutter approach when we are trying to develop individualized learning.”

Common Core is not a federal mandate — the initiative was led by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). States adopted the standards voluntarily. The Obama administration has given states financial incentives to make the transition, however.

What’s the state Agency of Education doing to help Vermont schools dip their toes in the water? Vilaseca said the responsibility for implementing the standards lie, ultimately, with the school districts themselves.

“We try to support, we try to provide guidance, but a lot of the heavy lifting occurs at the local level,” he said.

Vilaseca and Pat Fitzsimmons, the agency’s Common Core Implementation Coordinator, say Vermont is in on track for a smooth transition, but progress is variable across districts.

Fitzsimmons’ assessment: “Schools for a variety of reasons are in a variety of different places”

“We can’t guarantee that everyone right now has adopted the NECAP standards,” Vilaseca added. “We know there are places that have not implemented some of the science standards. The expectation is they will adopt those standards, but it really is, since Vermont is made up of 280 local districts, quite often a local decision.”

But neither Vilaseca nor Fitzsimmons say they have gotten pushback from particular schools.

“I find that Vermont educators typically appreciate a challenge. For the most part, I could be out in left field, but I don’t think I am, educators are really trying to move forward in implementing these standards,” Fitzsimmons said.

Vilaseca said he had just attended teacher in-service days in Bristol and in the Chittenden East Supervisory Union, which focused heavily on planning for the Common Core implementation. “We are hearing a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for this.”

One of the most important things the agency can do to support local districts is, according to Vilaseca, to act as a conduit of information coming other states.

Fitzsimmons pointed to several entities that are working alongside the agency and school districts. They’re taking advantage of the infrastructure and the funding — some of which comes from the federal government — that’s already in place for professional development for teachers.

The state has two “Professional Learning Teams,” one for math and one for English that are composed of teachers, professional developers, curriculum coordinators, and other stakeholders. The regional meetings they hold this year will focus on Common Core implementation.

“We can’t meet with every teacher but we are hoping these leadership teams can bring it down to them,” Fitzsimmons said. Participation in the meetings is not mandatory for school districts.

The Agency also has an Implementation of State Standards Advisory Council (ISSAC), which will help oversee the transition. They’ve developed a guide with 42 “implementation steps” to direct the process.

Vilaseca said he didn’t know exactly how much the agency is spending on helping schools reorient their curriculums to the Common Core, but he estimated the costs fall around $530,000 annually. In addition to Fitzsimmons, who does Common Core work full-time, several other agency staff are involved from time to time, to a total tune of $50,000 to $60,000 in salary costs. The Agency is also providing $480,000 in financial support to the state’s education service agencies — regional partnerships between school districts or supervisory unions, higher education institutions, and service providers that offer professional development — to help them “concentrate their work on transitioning to Common Core.”

The task for Vermont is less daunting than for larger states, Vilaseca said. “I think we are actually probably better than most states. Some states are maybe are further along than this. Trying to do this in a place like California and Illinois is a littler harder when you have about a million students.”

Likewise, Shumlin said Vermont has a leg up because it’s already got a good public education system.

“The states that are really in trouble with the Common Core are the states that aren’t performing well in their public educations systems, but Vermont has one of the best education systems in the country.”

Alicia Freese

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  • Janice Prindle

    This article reads like a press release from the Governor’s office. Nowhere does it give the real history of these Common Core standards: who is selling them to the states, the underhanded way they were adopted by the state without any public input, let alone from teachers.Not a word about how this is a sweeping corporate establishment of a national curriculum, something that Americans have historically resisted. Nothing in this piece suggests that the author or even the Governor have actually looked at the standards closely, to notice how they differ from the current standards, let alone whether educational professionals in the field, including developmental psychologists and the national councils of educators in the various disciplines, consider them appropriate.

    “Rigorous” is a buzzword today.It’s used here to make this sweeping change, without any public scrutiny, wasting millions of our taxpayer dollars on new testing and implementation, sound like a terrific thing.

    We don’t need more “rigorous” standards (there is no one-size-fits-all definition of “rigorous”, anyway, when it comes to learning). We in Vermont and those other 43 states need our hard-earned tax dollars going to support families and fund schools properly, to address the only two factors that have ever consistently correlated with performance on standardized tests:family income, and time spent in direct contact with adult caregivers (family dinner time, small classes, and so on).

    To fully appreciate what an ugly piece of politics and window dressing this is, check out Susan O’Hanian’s recent article about the Common Core on Vermont Digger. Then Google Bill Gates and Common Core, and even check out the standards for yourself. Check out, where you can see for yourself what impact poverty and race have on human development, zip code by zip code.

  • In a recent VT Digger I asked 28 questions about the Common Core. You can read Secretary Vilaseca’s boilerplate answer at Vermont Commons:

  • Emma Wright

    To the Governor and Commissioner of Education and all the good people of Vermont, who will compile and analyze the data from Vermont students?

    Who will have access to it? Who will pay for the compilation and analytics? What will this cost Vermonters? Who will decide if it is right to data mine our children in this way?

    New York parents were enraged when they learned that their children were being data mined by inBloom (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation) in the name of education, while global corporate interests are creating the textbooks and FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is being eroded to minimize the privacy of children and families.

    Did New York need more time to “work” the parents in order to avoid the backlash?

    Are Vermonters comfortable allowing our children’s education to be shaped by global corporate interests?

    It seems that Common Core is more about creating compliant citizens than sparking the flame of interest and engagement in each and every child.

    This is not a partisan issue. Common Cores critics are strong among Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party members and Libertarians.

    Are we doing the right thing in implementing this surveillance and control set up here in Vermont?

  • Linda Quackenbush

    Common Core was spearheaded by radical Weather Underground activist Bill Ayers! WOW…I feel so much confidence in our government’s ability to “entertain” our kids in education! Every single program that they have implemented has been a complete failure…

    We are essentially paying taxes twice with Act60-68 & Common Core. Bills that were “forced” upon Vermonters with very little public support. Back door politics never win the heart of the people…

  • First things first: separate the Common Core Curriculum from the standardized testing regime (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC).

    At its heart and if implemented properly the Common Core is a set of generalized guidelines that stipulate what a student should know at some point in their learning. Much of the common core deals with the very same basics so many folks bemoan as missing … but the curriculum takes us at least one very important step forward.

    This step is the concept of detailed exploration of a relatively small and focused set of topics with the expectation that a student’s learning will include how to apply the skills learned in other related or non-related topics.

    The breadth and amount of information available for decision making today is vast, vast, vast. The ability to have a fundamental understanding of reading complex technical text, for example, that was learned in the context of automotive shop can be harnessed into understanding a critical reading of scientific or sociological texts.

    The Common Core does make one unfortunate assumption: successful learning can be accompanied by the same old grade level stepping stones. We have today an opportunity to take a set of standards that are easily applied to personalized learning and step outside the 1st grade, 2nd … 11th, 12th paradigm – if implemented properly the Common Core lends itself very nicely to learning competencies and measuring advancement by personal learning.

    The Common Core gives us a grand opportunity – if we take advantage of it.

    • John Greenberg

      Thank you Rama for adding your knowledge to these discussions in clear and comprehensible presentations. For those of us (i.e. me!) who do not follow this issue closely, it is much appreciated.

      • Janice Prindle

        Rama presents the naive view that somehow these are only “guidelines” that anyone would appreciate, and that they are “a step forward,” as if we didn’t already have guidelines prior to Common Core (the Vermont State Standards with their Grade Level Expectations)…and other guidelines before that, going by different names, going back for decades. Vermont teachers, in my years of teaching, were well-informed about these standards, which were generally similar to other state standards spinning off the “standards” movement in the 80s, spear-headed by another group in the Clinton era, based at the University of Pittsburgh. Those standards were implemented after a lengthy process of public review, including among teachers. Major educational publishers aligned their texts and their standardized testing with those standards.In addition, teachers of the major disciplines all have professional councils each with its own discipline-based standards (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of English, etc.). So the idea of Common Core “guidelines” being a “step forward” is false to begin with. The idea that educational professionals didn’t have a clue what to teach and when to teach it — allowing for individual differences, as well– and that we needed Bill Gates and his business cronies to tell us, is preposterous.

        Rama’s comment also dismisses the very real problem of the CONTENT of these guidelines, which are, in my discipline of language arts, full of problems: developmentally inappropriate benchmark texts, an exaggerated emphasis upon reading and writing nonfiction beyond the elementary grades, are just a few examples. The humanities, literature, poetry, metaphorical thinking and critical thinking, interpretation and expression, are largely absent from Common Core. These are not “frills,” but important ways of understanding our world; of learning to deal with complexity of ideas, not just information, however technical; and of communicating,evaluating, even generating new information and ideas.

        No set of “guidelines” is value-neutral. Common Core is definitely not; its values are expressed in what it defines as essential skills, and what it leaves out. A steady diet of informational reading and writing does not prepare a student for critical thinking, nor is Common Core intended to do so. It’s a program written by businessmen who want our schools to train their workers at our expense, not to develop citizens with powerful voices who can think for themselves.

        Rama is also wrong in suggesting we can separate “guidelines” from the standardized testing that will be based on those guidelines. That’s not going to happen, as the article above makes plain. When the “guidelines” change, the tests change. The “guidelines” end up dictating what is emphasized, how precious classroom time is spent.

  • Julie Hansen

    Common Core is not a curriculum; it is a set of standards that guide the skills students need to demonstrate as they work through a school’s written curriculum.

    It would be helpful if someone would focus on one or two of the standards and link them specifically to the arguments presented.

    Is it the standards themselves that are the issue or the way in which they are written or the source from which they are derived?

    • Janice Prindle

      Both. And you can check them out for yourselves, they are online. And read about the history of it online, as I suggested, along with another respondent. There’s also in today’s (Sunday, Sept. 1) Rutland Herald an excellent commentary by Bill Mathis, a Vermont School Board member, explaining the origin and the problem with Common Core.

  • Dave Bellini

    Leave it to education administrators to obfuscate anything and everything. The last thing the edu. think tank wants is a valid, clear, measurable, progress report of students, schools or teachers. The most important thing is to keep coming up with “new” ideas on how to instruct children. Keep changing the model so there can never really be a comparison or a scientific measure of anything. Keep it complicated. The most important thing is the process, who cares about outcomes?

    • Dave, the Common Core is about defining desired outcomes – if implemented properly it leaves the implementation/process to whatever level the individual state handles the curriculum (I should note: as Julie Hansen noted above the Common Core is a set of standards and is not curriculum – my use of the term “Common Core Curriculum” is incorrect.)

      As to the changes in wording … as time progresses and language changes the words used to describe actions will change too. Additionally we are addressing at least two fundamental changes in how we view our public education system: we want as many students as possible to continue their learning for a lifetime as opposed to just seeing them through the minimum; and modern day communications has opened the way for new ways to learn, collaborate and obtain information.

      Here is what I have found from talking to folks around Williamstown: The administrators and staff like the standards because they believe the standards make sense and help people measure so adjustments can be made; and the parents and other community members like them because they want to know their children’s intellectual advancement can be measured in a way they, the parents and community members, can understand.

      Don’t be confused. School administrators and staff and the parents and community members are concerned with and interested in the whole child/young adult. Here’s a list of the state required skills as taken from the proposed Educational Quality Standards (
      a. Literacy (including critical thinking, language, reading, speaking and listening, and writing);
      b. Mathematical Content and Practices (including numbers, operations, and the concepts of algebra and geometry by the end of 10th grade);
      c. Scientific Inquiry and Content Knowledge (including the concepts of life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences and engineering design);
      d. Global Citizenship (including the concepts of civics, economics, geography, world language, cultural studies and history);
      e. Transferable Skills (including communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation, inquiry, problem solving and use of technology);
      f. Physical Wellness and Health (including regular physical activity and nutrition); and
      g. Artistic Expression (including visual and performing arts).

      The reality is that the model is changing in some ways to accommodate new expectations and modern communication; but the model is also reaffirming tried and true basics.

      We can’t expect education to continue using the same language it did a hundred years ago.

      • Linda Quackenbush

        We The People are being railroaded by a government that does absolutely NOTHING but get in the way of PROGRESS! Paying for programs from insolvency is completely ignorant! Maybe that’s why my children were “never” taught how to “balance” a checkbook or how to write a check. It’s quite obvious that that schools are lacking the basics in common fiscal responsibility. Hmmm…I wonder where they get that from.

        • Linda, if you feel that basic home economics is a necessity then you need to approach your local school board. They are empowered to add various curricla(ae?). There may be opportunities to add some instruction into existing classes, or you may feel a need to expend the financial resources on a dedicated class .. however it turns out.

          The Common Core standards do not get into that level of weed whacking. The curriculum that the state and your local district develop (what I keep calling the common core curriculum) to address the standards do – speak up.

          • Linda Quackenbush

            I’m watching 60 Minutes tonight on KHAN academy and a new way of online teaching our kids at home and school using the internet. Interestingly, Bill Gates’ children use Khan academy and amazingly its FREE…Wow think of the “simple basic economics” and the money that could be saved by getting rid of Common Core & Act 60-68 and implementing KHAN in the classroom…

            A free mind is pure unadulterated brilliance…

          • Linda,

            First … the Khan Academy speaks to the Common Core:

            This also begs a larger exploration into the efficacy of online learning and the varied models used to access such experiences.

    • Linda Quackenbush

      You’re so right! Our government has to train the next generation in the art of not being accountable and/or responsible! After all the Federal Reserve/US Treasury hasn’t an audit in over a hundred years! Our government is stealing from the American taxpayer and implementing massive expensive legislation that has absolutely “no” accountability for our children or for our wallets! This is simple plain & unadulterated IGNORANCE… I vote for Common Sense because its free and simple!

  • kevin lawrence

    Regarding testing, keep in mind that parents can take charge of how much their own children are tested. Write a letter the week before test administration making it clear that your child will not participate in the test (if you do not believe in testing). Note that all correspondence regarding the issue should be between school representatives and you the parent, leaving your child to read a good book during testing. Forcing students to take this test would break its standardization. Children and parents need to learn to politely say, “No, thank you.”

  • Bill Mathis

    In this comment string, the Common Core (CCSS)is confused with the state’s EQS standards. They are very different. I would urge everyone to go to and just randomly select from the multitude of very specific CCSS standards for each grade level and both subject areas and ask how appropriate each standard is for all children.

    Troll around in there for awhile to get a feel for it and draw your own conclusions. Here’s one from high school math:

    CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-LE.A.4 For exponential models, express as a logarithm the solution to abct = d where a, c, and d are numbers and the base b is 2, 10, or e; evaluate the logarithm using technology.

    I admit I have never used anything like this although I do use a lot of statistics. It might be relevant for the 6% of people who use math regularly as part of their job.

    I note some say this is not a curriculum. However, this multitude of standards is required for all students, with specific content for each grade, and they will be given tests on whether they learned it, with consequences. Some would say this is a curriculum.

    • Linda Quackenbush

      As an educated consumer I wouldn’t go out and buy a “one size fits all” pair of pants and expect my family to wear them…Common Core has already been bought and paid for by a political organizations known as the National Governor’s Association, Department of Education and its huge lobbying partner the NEA. The Nationalized education curriculum known as Common Core is a “one size fits all” reform that has already been bought and paid for by Governor Shumlin in 2010. So of course he welcomes a product that he personally endorses. The money has already been exchanged hands and the product Common Core has already been implemented and is up and running. I saw a poll last week that indicated that 70% of Americans don’t know what Common Core is. That’s why I believe there is a huge political push by deep pocketed political lobbying national progressive sales team to act as public relation liaisons to its consumers and/or parents to sell CC to the American public as a GREAT product. Americans are slowly waking up to a force feeding of governmental subsidized education known as Common Core leaving them with a taste of disgust…

      As a consumer and a parent of three children I would never go out and purchase a “one size fits all” pair of pants and expect everyone to wear them. Quite frankly, it would be insultingly irresponsible on my part to buy something and “expect” my family to wear something without consulting with them first about their personal preferences. If I brought home a pair of “one size fits all” pants and expected my family to wear them, they would tell me to “go to he..! “The same goes for Common Core. Our government has decidedly taken it upon themselves to garner an educational plan that has no public policy and/or support by parents and local school boards. The problem I see as a consumer and parent is, Common Core has already been bought and paid for and we had no voice in the process. What’s even worse is its a done deal and we have no public recourse to repeal this Bill. We’re stuck with a huge piece of legislation that is once again expansive, expensive and paid for by US with absolutely no guarantee that it will work.

      We have seen this type of “switch & bait” governance before with Governor Shumlin. Governor Shumlin baited the hook with federal tax dollars and used his executive order privilege to implement not only Common Core but Green Mountain Care & Green Energy Initiatives to lure big pocketed special interest groups. He switched the democratic due process of Vermont voters and replaced it with “his” Executive Order privilege and appointed “non-electable” boards who have a vested interest in the above legislation! As Vermonters we have been bamboozled and railroaded by Governor Shumlin’s executive order privilege nullifying our Constitutional rights as American voters… Simply shameful governance!

      • The Common Core State Standards were accepted on behalf of Vermont by the Vermont State Board of Education – summer of 2010 if I remember correctly (online access to VSBE approved minutes only goes back to June, 2011 so I can’t be more precise).

        • Bill Mathis

          Yes, the VT SBE did adopt the CCSS before I was on the board. I spoke against adoption as a citizen attending that meeting. My questions were (1) capacity, (2) cost, (3) validity of the standards, and (4) professional development.

          The NEA’s role in CCSS has been nominal. It is a NGA and CCSSO led effort. Gates has funded and staffed this effort for the organizations.

        • Linda Quackenbush

          That’s the problem! The “State” took the money and circumvented the constituents and the “Democratic Due Process” to implement Common Core! Just like they did with Green Mountain Care and Green Energy initiatives. Common Core is intrusive, expensive and has monopolised Vermont’s education system. Vermont is turning into a Nationalistic Nanny state controlled by big pocketed corporate lobbying arms of the Federal government! Furthermore, the people of Vermont are not being informed and represented by their perspective elected representatives.

          All you have to do is look at the the decline of farming in Vermont simply because of highly regulated and controlled legislation of the government. The US government has regulated the Vermont farmer virtually out of business. Vermont farms have gone from 11,000 to 1000 working farms in 60 years. It seems we are replacing farms with expansive & expensive federalized legislation of Green energy initiatives forcing farming operations to dry up! Governmental policy is replacing dairy farms with expensive solar and wind projects all backed by a greedy corporate government that has expanded its base overseas to foreign governments who employ cheap labor and tax incentives. Farmers simply cannot compete against governmental controlled deep pocketed multinational corporations including the Federal government.

          My whole premise of my post is to enlighten the idea that “less is more” in a society that is so determined to garner success by money! Farming is the one of the oldest professions on earth. It is also the most honest and humbling of professions. I can attest as a former daughter of a farmer, there are times where I would rather be out sowing a field or milking a cow but there came a time when my parents decided that we would be better served in the suburbs and so we moved from that beautiful incredible experience called farming. As a Mother I often reflect on days of farming from haying to milking cows and yearn for that life again for my family….
          There was a time when all farm children were homeschooled and the Department of Education did not exist. Remarkably, these kids turned out to be incredibly successful & innovative people. One such person is Abraham Lincoln…

  • George Cross

    And, only those who can demonstrate competence related to HSF-LE.A.4 as Mathis sets forth above shall be eligible to run for political office, local, state or national.

  • Bill Mathis raises a very interesting point – when does the “standard” really matter?

    Are we going to insist for graduation from high school on 100% proficiency in 100% of the standards?

    Are we going to judge schools on their ability to bring 100% of the students up to proficiency in 100% of the standards?

    Are we going to sacrifice whole student learning that includes the arts and physical education and home economics and extra-curricular activities in some war against less then 100% of the students at proficiency in 100% of the standards?

    Are we going to misuse the standardized testing regime as a simplified way to report on the schools and compare one school to another?

    …. OR ….

    Are we going to use the standards as benchmarks for student learning?

    It really is about the implementation.

    At the end of the day YOUR opinion should be an informed one. The Common Core Standards as they exist today can be found at

    As a school board member I pledge to remember that these standards address only a part of the whole student that comes to school everyday. It is up to all of us to assure that politicians aren’t allowed to coop these standards and the associated testing regime for their, not the students’, purposes.

    • Linda Quackenbush

      The Common Core Standards were never approved by “electable” local school boards and their perspective constituents. This nationalized intrusive education reform was bought and paid for by big political lobbying special interest groups like the deep pockets of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. They have a vested interest in the implementation of Common Core especially with their MSN marketshare capitalizing on the datamining of consumer typology among students with the use of smart technology. It’s a “win-win” relationship among politicians and their huge lobbying partners. Informational technology is the fastest growing market in the world. So it would make sense that the lobbying partners( National Educators Association(NEA), National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) of the US Department of Education spend and lobby for Common Core. The above mentioned groups are implementing the single most expensive legislation Common Core without any adieu to the general public and its children. Gross maladministration of public policy is becoming the political norm when the general public is circumnavigated by back door deals…

      Alarmingly, Common Core records and stores our children’s data, progress and personal information using their biometric thumbprint. This is simply a convoluted attempt by the US government to sellout our children’s personal information (datamining) to companies and/or institutions for a profit all the while hiding behind educational reforms like Common Core.

      I have researched & written extensively on Common Core and have tried to reach out to the general public of Vermont with my “personal” commentary but I have been insulted, censored and told to “shut up” by various people and organizations that are also vested in the implementation of CC.

  • Pete Novick

    Vermont enjoys one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country.

    Here in Windham County, we have closed and consolidated three schools in the last three years. Projecting the current enrollment trend to 2020, there is a good chance Leland & Gray in Townshend will have to consider closing around the end of this decade.

    Now add Vernon and surrounding town schools to the mix, as more than 100 students leave in the next couple of years as their parents find jobs elsewhere as Vermont Yankee ceases power generation operations.

    According to the Vermont Department of Education, Vermont had 95,000 students in public K-12 classrooms just a few years ago. That number has declined to about 87,000 today.

    When your town loses its schools, it is an economic and social death rattle.

    Young couples with education and skills and school aged kids are not relocating to Vermont. While there are plenty of jobs here, there are fewer jobs tied to career ladders as is the case in many other locations in the country. Also, the median wage in Vermont is well below the national average.

    Here’s a link to a recent (July 2013) snapshot of state economies. Even if you only scan the charts, it’s well worth your time:

    As you can see, Vermont is near the bottom in many important measures of economic success.

    Meanwhile, Vermont’s high school graduation rate continues to outpace most other states, and based on college acceptance rates, Vermont public high schools are doing a better job at preparing high school graduates to be successful in college.

    The irony here is that Vermont does not have the white collar job base to support their return to careers here. In a sense, Vermont is exporting its best and brightest (think human capital) the way it exports maple syrup and other forest products.

    So, I say bring on the new test standards, which in the long run will speed up the rate of high school graduate exodus and perhaps force our federal and state representatives to confront the single most important issue in the state: a moribund economy.

    Here’s a sample math problem from the new standard test for 8th graders. You should be able to solve this problem in your head, or at least set up the equation.

    You buy a leather coat for $195 which is on sale for 40% off the list price. What was the list price?

    In closing, which of these two headlines is more likely to appear on the front page of your local newspaper:

    “ABC Engineering Company to Expand – 35 New Jobs Coming to [name of your town]

    “ABC Community Group Receives $25K Grant to Study Economic Development”

    I think you get the idea.

  • Pete Novick

    If you want to have some fun, try spending an hour or so with the Common Core State Standards Initiative. As you may know, NCLB is now toast and 45 states have adopted the Common Core as the standard for public education goals/outcomes by grade. Here’s a link to the website:

    Since it’s important to start at the beginning, I decided to go back to first grade to see what I have missed, and here’s a Common Core standard for 1st graders and their writing:

    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.

    Here’s a link to this standard:

    OK and here’s my informative/explanatory text with facts and closure:

    I had a dog. His name was Buster. He had brown fur. He licked my face. He was happy. He died last week.

    How’s that for closure?

    • Linda Quackenbush

      Progressives like to overwhelm the system(Cloward & Piven) for the destruction of the Free Market system! They want absolute CONTROL and a “2” Class system…

      • Janice Prindle

        Common Core is not coming to you from progressives. Gates is not a progressive, nor the organizations he funds to do his bidding. That is not a progressive outlook on life, whatever party you vote for (which is now irrelevant). Common Core, Gates and his ilk are the plutocrats running our society, paying to “use” our “democracy” however they want, from Monsanto-controlled agribusiness — which is what is destroying our family farms– to telecom control of the internet, limiting or in some states outright banning of community fiber initiatives, the better to create their dream of “fast” and “slow” lanes to make even more money off of us, while severely reducing the numbers of nonprofits and small businesses and individuals who can afford to use it to connect with others and prosper. And now, Common Core.

        Don’t blame the progressives for this. Follow the money!

        • Linda Quackenbush

          Obama appointed Progressive elites Bill Ayers & Linda Darling-Hammond spearheaded and implemented Common Core! Common Core uses smart technology to store & record our children’s personal & educational information without parental consent. Who do you think stands to benefit and/or profit from Common Core’s massive personal data collection? You decide…Hint…It’s not the American people or our precious children!

          a) US Government
          b) MSN, GE, Comcast (owned by Bill Gates)
          c) Progressive Party’s motto “to improve the human condition”
          d) Unions
          e) Nonprofits/Colleges/Universities
          f) All of the Above

          • Janice Prindle

            Like I said: not progressive. Corporate elites have friends in both parties. Follow the money, not the labels. And incidentally, just because you feel all of the groups listed above are your enemies, that doesn’t mean they’re all on the same side, either. The world is a whole lot more complicated that you or Common Core would like it to be.

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