From VTDIGGER.ORG, Tuesday, August 13, 2013. See
http://vtdigger.org/2013/08/13/ohanian-28-questions-about-the-common-core/ Note: VTDigger.org is a statewide news
website dedicated to coverage of Vermont politics, consumer affairs,
business and public policy. - See more at:
Ohanian: 28 questions about the Common Core
By Susan Ohanian
Editor's note: This op-ed is by Susan Ohanian of Charlotte,
a longtime teacher and author of 25 books on education policy and
practice. Her website is at www.susanohanian.org.
Author's note: North Carolina Lt. Gov. Daniel J. Forest
wrote an open letter to the state's chief education officer, asking
67 questions about the Common Core State Standards. That letter
provoked my own open letter to Vermont leaders who make critical
decisions about educating our children. Every Vermonter has a stake in
Dear Gov. Shumlin, Secretary Vilaseca, members of the State Board of
Education, and members of the House and Senate Committees on
The Common Core State Standards
1. In an August 2010 press release, Education Secretary Armando
Vilaseca stated that Vermont had been "actively involved in the
development and review of these new Common Core State Standards
* Please provide the names of these Vermonters "actively involved"
in this CCSS development; include minutes and materials.
* Please forward all CCSS-related correspondence between the Vermont
State Education Agency, the governor, and members of the Vermont
Legislature between January 2009 and June 2010.
2. Did the secretary, the State Board of Education and members
of the legislative education committees examine dissenting views
before adopting the CCSS?
* Please provide a list of individuals, groups, associations
providing reasons for NOT pursuing CCSS.
3. Can you point to pedagogical research supporting the
following CCSS directives (offered as tiny examples of inappropriate
* Kindergarten: Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and
final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme words.
* Grade 6: Establish and maintain a formal style in writing.
4. In a commentary in VTDigger, Aug. 29, 2010, Secretary
Vilaseca asserted, "The Common Core State Standards are comparable
to the most rigorous international education standards."
* Please name the international standards used as CCSS
5. The Vermont Agency of Education states that CCSS are needed
"To enable students from the U.S. to compete with their peers
* Please provide research showing a causal relationship between any
national standards and economic competitiveness.
6. What was inadequate about Vermont's previous standards?
* Please provide evidence of Vermont schools not teaching our
students to read, write, speak, listen, and learn math for the past
7. What is the cost of providing teachers with resources to
make the change to CCSS?
* Is this cost the responsibility of taxpayers in local
* Has consideration been given to what schools will have to
sacrifice in order to meet the standards?
8. Were local school boards consulted before CCSS
* Please provide details of these discussions.
9. The Vermont Agency of Education recommended that teachers
watch a video featuring David Coleman, a chief architect of the CCSS,
advising students who read several grade levels below the complex text
assigned to the class: "You're going to practice it again and
again and again and again Š so there's a chance you can finally do
that level of work."
* How does this CCSS approach fit with the personalized
education for every student?
10. When Vermont adopted CCSS, what convincing information
superseded the fact that the radical CCSS, written by non-educators,
was not research-based, not field-tested, not proven effective?
11. The State Board can change/alter the CCSS by "15%" to
accommodate local needs.
* What constitutes a percentage point when modifying CCSS?
* Who can request such modifications for Vermont?
* To whom does Vermont submit modifications?
* What happens if changes above "15%" are made?
12. The Pioneer Institute estimates the cost to implement CCSS
nationally at about $16 billion over the next seven years. Six
Rockland County (New York) school districts estimate a four-year cost
of $10,886,712. What is the cost projection for Vermont?
13. How is the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)
aligned to CCSS better than current assessments (which Vermont
taxpayers paid a lot to develop)? Include correspondence, and
documentation of Vermont participation in SBAC meetings.
14. Teachers and parents have expressed concerns about the length
of the pilot tests. What is your best estimate for the time CCSS
assessments will take from regular school studies?
15. How do you plan to address challenges posed by the lack of
transparency in these assessments?
* Who will determine cut scores, the number of right answers
students need on a test to be deemed proficient, on the new CCSS
* What happens to students who do not meet these cut scores?
16. Why did Vermont decide not to field test CCSS assessments
prior to the complete roll-out?
17. How will the CCSS tests affect students in alternative
programs such as the Walden Project offered through Vergennes Union
High School and other remarkable placed-based learning projects?
* Can you offer assurance that CCSS assessments will "test for
grit, teamwork, communication, innovation, ambition and the like?"
[See John Merrow Open Letter to Architects of the Common Core, May 29,
18. So far this year, Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia have
withdrawn from assessments associated with CCSS. Has Vermont looked
into this as an option? Why or why not?
19. To accommodate just the technological requirements for CCSS
assessments, Florida budgeted an additional $450 million and
California an extra $1 billion. What has Vermont budgeted for
technological improvements to ensure our schools meet the basic
requirements for CCSS assessment?
20. Does every Vermont school have bandwidth capacity for the
CCSS assessments? Please provide a list.
21. Will the implementation of new technology requirements to
accommodate CCSS assessment require local schools to hire additional
Origin of the Common Core
22. Do you think that the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation spent several hundred million dollars to create and promote
the CCSS, shutting teachers out of the process, puts the democratic
process in jeopardy?
23. In his State of the Union address President Obama
referenced CCSS: "We've convinced nearly every state in the
country Š" What form did federal "persuasion" take in
24. In a June 2013 letter sent to the Chief State School
Officers, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, "The
Department of Education (DOE) is open to additional flexibility for
states in Š one particular element of teacher and leader
* If CCSS and assessments are not federally mandated programs, why
and how is the federal government able to offer flexibility to
25. Secretary Duncan: "Given Š the dramatic changes in
curricula that teachers and principals are now starting to teach, and
the transition to new assessments aligned to those standards, the
Department will, on a state-by-state basis, allow states up to one
additional year before using their new evaluation systems to inform
* Exactly what does "evaluation systems to inform personnel
determinations" mean in Vermont? What is the federal role in how we
evaluate our teachers?
26. InBloom, the national database of personal student information
associated with the implementation of CCSS, states that it "cannot
guarantee the security of the information stored, or that the
information will not be intercepted when it is being
* Please detail any communication between representatives from
inBloom and the Vermont Agency of Education.
27. What is your position on the lawsuit filed by the
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) against the U.S.
Department of Education for issuing regulations that fail to safeguard
* Please list what data points will be collected on Vermont public
school students and shared with "contractors, consultants and
* Please provide the names of contractors, consultants and
volunteers who conducted such research over the last two years.
28. Can Vermont parents and students "opt out" of the
collection and storage of personal information in education databases
associated with CCSS? If so, what is the process? If not, why
Thank you for taking the time to consider these questions. I
believe every Vermonter has a huge stake in your answers.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244