Column: Common Core Makes Sense for Vermont
Vermont, along with 44 other states, adopted a common set of educational standards called the Common Core State Standards that will be used to articulate what we expect our students to know and demonstrate from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. Vermont’s current Framework of Standards has been in place for over a decade and has served us well. As society’s needs change and the expectations for schools change, our standards must also be adjusted.
Common Core standards provide all participating states a common platform from which to build their local curricula. It’s important to point out that local schools and teachers still decide how they want to teach and what curriculum they use; the standards provide the schools and teachers with a framework. These standards are an evolution of our current standards and are written to prepare all students to be “college and career ready” by the time they graduate from high school.
Vermont played an active role in the adoption of these standards as then-Gov. Jim Douglas (then chairman of the National Governors Association) worked to launch this initiative. Vermont has experience working across state lines. We were a founding member of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), and we collaborated with New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island to develop rigorous common standards and uniform assessments. Our New England experience was used as a model for Common Core standards.
For many years, I could never understand why we had 50 sets of standards in the U.S., and why each state had different sets of goals for its students to meet. I understand and support the concept of states’ rights, but this idea no longer makes sense when we have become such a mobile and transient society. Students too often miss information or are forced to repeat lessons when they move because of the incongruence of our state standards. Additionally, individual states’ assessments are used to compare states, even though the standards have varying levels of difficulty.
Common Core are not federal standards. They were written by states for states to meet our country’s needs into the future. Some will argue that these standards are not needed, aren’t rigorous enough, are too rigorous, or are being driven by foundations or deep-pocketed interests. It is true that many national organizations have supported the development of these standards, but the charge to adopt these standards was led by states, not big corporations. Vermont helped develop these standards, and we have also been instrumental in working on the assessment that will measure how our students are performing.
Are these standards perfect? No, but they are an improvement over current ones because they better reflect Vermont’s and our country’s needs, both now and in the future. Working with so many states requires collaboration and compromise; it is a testament to our governors and our states’ educational leaders to have come up with such a forward-thinking concept. I applaud legislators and state boards of education for supporting and adopting these new standards when our political process in Washington seems paralyzed by partisan gridlock.
Gov. Peter Shumlin and I have advocated raising math and science graduation requirements for some time; doing so will align our graduation requirements with these new standards. Adopting the Common Core standards was important not only to Vermont but for our entire country.
Armando Vilaseca, the Vermont secretary of education, lives in Westford.