What are the Common Core State Standards

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The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSS0). This effort included governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia. The state-led development did include collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts whose goal was to provide a framework to better prepare students for life after high school whether that be college or the workforce.

The CCSS are written for K-12 mathematics, K-12 English language art, & 6-12 literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.

The Common Core State Standards are internationally bench-marked meaning that the compare favorably with the rest of the world’s academic standards. Only five states have not adopted the CCSS including Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia. The standards were developed in 2009, released in 2010, and are currently in the transition phase among states. Most states will begin full implementation in the 2014-2015 school year.

There are several reasons these standards were developed including:

  • Having a set of standards that more readily prepared students for college and/or the workforce.
  • With the United States moving down the list in terms of educational ranking, having standards that are internationally bench-marked can begin to turn that trend around.
  • Developing standards that are shared between states ensures that all states are teaching the same things and the same grades. States will have the capacity to track students who are transient more efficiently. In the old system, a student could be proficient in reading in Connecticut. That same student could move twenty miles into Massachusetts and may not be proficient.
  • The alignment of standards allows states to more accurately be compared. With a like set of standards and assessments you can accurately compare the quality of education in New Mexico to Georgia, where as in the old system you could make those comparisons, but they probably were not accurate. In the age of high stakes testing, this will breed competition between states, which could translate to higher student achievement overall.
  • School testing is a billion dollar industry and each state has developed their own tests to match their adopted state standards. With the Common Core State Standards there will be no need to develop a different assessment for each state. States can share the burden of the expense for test development and this will drastically decrease how much money states will spend on testing.

There are several key components of the Common Core State Standards. Those include:

  • They are aligned with college and work expectations. This means that they were designed to prepare all students for employment and/or post-secondary education.
  • They are focused and coherent and more readily reflect the structure of the discipline being taught.
  • They include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills and authentic experiences.
  • They build upon strengths and lessons of the current state standards, but limit the number of items in a curriculum to allow for deeper exploration of the subject matter.
  • They are based on evidence and research.
  • They are internationally bench-marked so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society.
  • They provide an opportunity to improve the quality and usefulness of large-scale assessments significantly.
  • The standards have been divided into two categories including college and career readiness standards and K-12 standards.

As stated before standards have been written for mathematics, English language arts (commonly referred to as ELA), and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. There are no standards currently written for science or social studies, though they may come at a later time.

The standards that have been written to include the most effective models from states across the country and from countries around the world.

Within the standards, there are several key shifts that will cause many educators across the country to rethink how they teach. If they don’t adapt to these shifts, then their students will not be successful when being accessed over the CCSS. Likewise, students will have to adapt to these new styles of teaching and learning. They will be expected to development high level thinking/problem solving skills at an earlier age. Instruction will also have to focus on writing at a much earlier age. Even students as young as kindergarten will be expected to be able to write in the narrative, argumentative, and informative forms.

Key shifts in English language arts(ELA) include:

  • Reading – A balance of literature and informational text.
  • Writing – An emphasis on argument and informative/explanatory. Students will also be required to write about sources.
  • Speaking and Listening – Inclusion of formal and informal talk.
  • Language – A focus on general academic and domain-specific vocabulary.

Key shifts in ELA/Literacy include:

  • Standards for reading and writing in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects will complement rather than replace content standards in those subjects. It will be the responsibility of teachers in those subjects to make sure this component is being implemented. This will lead to integration of subject matter in self contained classes and will encourage a team teaching approach in a departmentalized school.

    Key shifts in mathematics include:

    • Focus and Coherence – There will be a focus on key topics at each grade level as well as coherent progressions across grade levels.
    • Balance of Concepts and Skills – Content standards will require both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. The clusters of standards will provide deep knowledge development opportunities.
    • Math Practices – Must foster reasoning and sense-making in math.

    There are several key issues that the Common Core State Standards do not define. They do not identify how teachers should teach. They also do not limit or list all that can or should be taught. There is no limiting factor placed on the nature of advanced work beyond the CCSS. There is nothing in the CCSS that indicates the interventions needed for students well below grade level or the support that should be given to English language learners and students with special needs. Finally, they do not provide everything needed to be college and career ready.

    The single biggest factor as we shift to the Common Core State Standards will be development of the assessments that go along with them. These assessments will be challenging for students across the country. They will be extraordinarily demanding, rigorous, and difficult. There will be more pressure than ever on teachers and administrators for their students to perform well.

    There are currently two consortiums responsible for developing these new assessment systems. The two consortiums have been awarded funding through a competition to design new assessment systems.

    All states who have adopted the Common Core State Standards have selected one of these consortiums in which they are a partner. These assessments are currently in the development stage. The two consortia responsible for developing these assessments are:

    1. SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
    2. Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
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    Meador, Derrick. "What are the Common Core State Standards." ThoughtCo, Dec. 4, 2014, thoughtco.com/what-are-the-common-core-state-standards-3194590. Meador, Derrick. (2014, December 4). What are the Common Core State Standards. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-common-core-state-standards-3194590 Meador, Derrick. "What are the Common Core State Standards." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-common-core-state-standards-3194590 (accessed November 20, 2017).