Common Core Executive Briefing

What You Need to Know About The Common Core Standards Initiative

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a states-led collaborative effort initiated and led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Education partners and leaders across education and business have joined this effort. The goal is to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt. The intention of the CCSS is to have a rigorous set of standards that specifically identify the learning outcomes needed to help schools prepare students to be college and career ready.

As of April 2013, 46 states and the District of Columbia have formally or informally committed to adopting the Common Core State Standards for English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12 and are in the process of aligning state assessments, curriculum, and classroom practices to integrate the new standards. Alaska, Texas, and Virginia have indicated that they do not plan to adopt the standards, and Nebraska and Wisconsin have not adopted them.

The Common Core State Standards were developed to meet the following criteria:
•    Align with expectations for college and career success
•    Be clear, so educators and parents can understand and support the standards
•    Ensure consistency across states
•    Include both content and application
•    Build upon strengths and lessons learned from current state standards
•    Benchmarked against other top-performing countries around the world
•    Be based on evidence and research based criteria

Many of the states that have adopted the CCSS began using the Common Core curriculum in June of 2011, and will begin assessment in 2013-2014. However, this differs by state, and is directed by their Departments of Education and/or state legislature.

Two consortia have been awarded competitive grant funds for the development of tests to assess the Common Core State Standards. SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) was awarded a four-year $176 million Race to the Top assessment grant by the U.S. Department of Education to develop a student assessment system aligned to a Common Core of academic standards. Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC or Partnership) PARCC RttT Assessment Consortium was awarded $170 of the $330 million. Assessments are expected for 2014 and are expected to include results from performance-based tasks through testing and traditional end-of-year assessments. Both plan to include end of year assessments offered online.

Implementation and funding the Common Core will be a hot area to watch as districts do not yet know how they will fully manage the implementation of the Common Core and the budget required to introduce new assessments and new curricula. We do know that states will be working within a three-year timeline as assessments are anticipated to be ready for 2014. Today legislative representatives in up to seven states have proposed or are considering proposals to back out of the states’ Common Core commitment, despite years of preparation. Political factions tied to Glenn Beck and the Tea Party are attacking CCSS on several fronts including these specific unfounded allegations:
•    Unlawful and intrusive computer tracking
•    Loss of local control
•    Creation of a national curriculum
•    It is a government takeover of schools
•    Lack of input from parents
•    Standards are not affordable
•    Standards are not aligned with cultural norms and advocate values unacceptable to many people

Another current tactic is to ask school patrons to write letters to their principals attacking CCSS and demanding answers to specific questions that imply CCSS is hurting their child.

While CCSS can successfully counter these concerns with verifiable facts, opposition persists.

The U.S. Dept. of Education supports the Common Core Initiative but has had no role in the development of the Common Core State Standards.

Why Common Core State Standards Must Address College and Career Readiness

College and career readiness means the ability to enter into a postsecondary school without remediation or the ability to enter a job that would provide a livable wage.

Standards are the skills and knowledge young people need to be academically successful. Until now, every state has had different academic standards; and, many states had standards that did not adequately prepare students for college or careers. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will provide consistent learning goals for all students wherever they live, and will allow parents and teachers to more effectively help all students achieve those goals.

The process CCSS used to create the standards relied on teachers, school administrators, and standards experts from around the country. State experts participated in review and comment periods to create a thoughtful and transparent process. This was possible by many states working together in the process. They applied the current and advanced thinking on how to prepare young people for college and career success. As a result, even the best state standards were improved.

The standards address what the landmark study A Nation at Risk called a “clear and present danger.” Some students from high performing states who pass all the required tests for graduation still require remediation to attend college. CCSS ensures students meet the requirements for college and career success by improving students’ academic readiness. For example, many high school students master narrative writing, which includes expressing opinions, beliefs, and personal experiences. Unfortunately, that's a form of writing that is rarely required beyond high school. As a result, English language arts standards put a greater emphasis on writing arguments. CCSS also focuses on the ability to read and understand complex texts outside of literature and asks students to be able to read, write, and research in history and science, in addition to literature.

Finally, the CCSS ask students to read increasingly complex material as they move through the education so they develop skills in an ascending hierarchy. The high school CCSS sets a rigorous definition of college and career readiness by demanding that students develop a depth of understanding and ability to apply learning to novel situations, just as college students and employees regularly do.