USC Rossier School of Education has created this resource to help educators navigate the ins and outs of the Common Core State Standards. Through this comprehensive guide, educators not only will become well-versed in these national standards, but also will be able to provide stronger guidance to parents and community members.

What is the Common Core?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a set of national educational standards in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics for grades K-12 that aim to prepare students for success in college and the workforce. These national standards are the first of their kind in the United States, which has historically left each state on its own to write, adopt, implement and assess academic standards.

While the majority of states have fully signed on to implement the Common Core in their schools, the public remains mostly unaware of the new standards and how they affect education in their community.

Map of Common Core by State

State curriculum is fully aligned with the Common Core Standards.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Conneticut, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

State curriculum has partially adopted or fully adopted the Common Core Standards. Curriculum may be aligned with English language arts and/or math.

Minnesota (ELA)

State curriculum had initially adopted the standards but has since formally withdrawn its participation. Curriculum is now state-run standards.

Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina

The adoption stance of state curriculum is under review at time of publication.

Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah

State has opted out of adopting the Common Core Standards.

Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia

Formally Adopted

Partially Adopted

Repealed

Under Review

Nonmember

Formally Adopted

State curriculum is fully aligned with the Common Core Standards.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Conneticut, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Partially Adopted

State curriculum has partially adopted or fully adopted the Common Core Standards. Curriculum may be aligned with English language arts and/or math.

Minnesota (ELA)

Repealed

State curriculum had initially adopted the standards but has since formally withdrawn its participation. Curriculum is now state-run standards.

Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina

Under Review

The adoption stance of state curriculum is under review at time of publication.

Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah

Nonmember

State has opted out of adopting the Common Core Standards.

Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia

Brief History of the Common Core Standards

The 1990s ushered in the standards movement. During this time, states began outlining what students needed to know at the conclusion of each grade level.

The problem with each state defining its own learning goals was that each state also defined what it meant to be proficient.

In response, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) created a state-led, bipartisan solution to the problem - national standards for grades K-12 that take students on a path of rigorous preparation for college and career readiness. In creating the CCSS, the writing teams researched the best state educational standards that existed at the time. They wanted to see what types of standards successful states had in common.

In the creation of both the ELA and mathematics CCSS, the College and Career Readiness (CCR) anchor standards were created first. The anchor standards defined what a student should know and understand by high school graduation. From there, the K-12 grade-level standards were written to support a student's journey toward the CCR anchor standards.

Panels of teachers, content experts, state officials and academic thinkers both wrote and provided feedback on the drafts of the CCSS. The writers sought feedback from the public twice during the writing process. In addition, groups such as the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and National Council of Teachers of English convened panels to offer feedback during the public comment phase of development.

What the Common Core Standards Look Like

The two subjects covered by the Common Core Standards are English language arts and mathematics

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

The English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core Standards are for students in grades K-12. Standards for grades K-8 are broken down by grade, while high school standards are grouped into two bands (grades 9-10 and grades 11-12) to allow flexibility in their design.

PREVIOUS ENGLISH QUESTION
Who is telling the story in "Charlotte's Web"?

COMMON CORE ENGLISH QUESTION
What is your point of view about Wilbur? How is it different from the narrator's point of view?

There are four strands of ELA instruction under the Common Core Standards:

Reading

Writing

Listening and Speaking

Language

These standards are designed to be taught concurrently in well-designed instructional plans. For example, the comprehension standards that require students to demonstrate their understanding are easily supported by the speaking and listening standards that require students to discuss what they've read or heard.

Standards Under the ELA Common Core

Under these standards, students who are "college-and-career ready" will be able to:

  • Read, comprehend and analyze complex texts.
  • Read texts across many content areas.
  • Formulate arguments.
  • Identify a speaker's argument and point of view.
  • Ask pertinent questions.
  • Use academic vocabulary.
  • Reference sources.
  • Complete meaningful research and in-depth study.
  • Share knowledge through speaking and writing.
  • Cite specific evidence.
  • Use technology to enhance communication.
  • Seek to understand different cultural perspectives.

Six Shifts in the English Language Arts Common Core Standards

There are six major shifts in the English Language Arts Standards that differentiate the standards above from those previously adopted by individual states:

  1. Reading of complex texts: Under this standard, in-class text complexity is aligned to help students succeed in the postsecondary world. The Lexile levels of college textbooks, as well as journals and magazines, have become increasingly complex over the past 50 years.
  2. Support ideas in reading, writing and speaking with evidence: Assessment questions are based on text-dependent questions that require students to cite texts within their answers.
  3. Learning from nonfiction texts: In order to help students become more sophisticated readers, in-class texts should focus on nonfiction genres. The majority of texts read in the postsecondary world are informational (e.g., textbooks, journals, magazines, trade publications).
  4. Recommendations for Types of Texts Used

    4th grade

    50% literary
    50% informational

    8th grade

    45% literary
    55% informational

    12th grade

    30% literary
    70% informational

  5. Emphasizing academic vocabulary: Vocabulary instruction is focused on academic, tier-two words due to their ability to transfer across content areas and support students' reading and listening comprehension.
  6. Writing from sources: There are three writing capacities: writing to persuade, writing to explain, and writing to convey real or imagined experiences. This standard emphasizes students' need to write argumentative, informative and explanatory texts.
  7. Using literacy instruction in content areas: ELA teachers are responsible for teaching literary content, such as poetry and creative nonfiction. However, with the emphasis and need for students to have more exposure to informational texts, teachers in other content areas should assign and teach complex, informational texts.

Mathematics Common Core Standards

The Mathematics Common Core Standards stress conceptual understanding of ideas as well as constantly returning to the basic math skills of place value and arithmetic. The goal for these math standards was to solve the problem of previous math curricula: covering too many topics in not enough detail. The old standards left students' math skills behind those of their peers in other countries.

Grades K-8 have specific math standards for each grade. High school math standards are broken into conceptual categories that allow schools to create unique courses of study. As with the ELA standards, the math standards do not dictate the use of particular curricula or teaching methods, nor does a teacher need to teach the math standards in the order they appear in the Common Core documents.

PREVIOUS MATH QUESTION
Each shirt costs $4. How much do three shirts cost?

COMMON CORE MATH QUESTION
Each shirt has six buttons. How many buttons are needed to make seven shirts?

Standards under the Mathematics Common Core

  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  • Model with mathematical manipulatives.
  • Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • Attend to precision.
  • Look for and make use of structure.
  • Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

PREVIOUS MATH QUESTION
If 3(y-1)=8, then what is y?

COMMON CORE MATH QUESTION
What are two different equations with the same solution as 3(y-1)=8?

Six Shifts in the Mathematics Common Core Standards

  1. Focus: More time is to be devoted to important concepts. Rather than covering many topics quickly, the standards stress the need to deepen instruction around pivotal ideas.
  2. Coherence: The Common Core is aligned so that connections can be made between learning from grade to grade. The coherence of the standards provides students a solid foundation on which to anchor more difficult mathematical concepts.
  3. Fluency: Students should be able to solve problems with speed and accuracy. These standards build in time for repetition and memorization.
  4. Deep understanding: Linked with focus, students should learn the concepts behind the math work rather than just tricks and algorithms to get the right answer.
  5. Application: When solving problems, students should be able to choose the appropriate mathematical skills needed.
  6. Dual intensity: Practice and understanding are equally stressed in the classroom.

Understanding Common Core Standards Assessments

Types of Tests

PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers)

The PARCC assessments cover English language arts and mathematics for grades 3-11

SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium)

The SBAC assessments are a counterpart to PARCC and provide online, automated assessments for the Common Core.

ETS (Educational Testing Service)

ETS is a testing, measurement and assessment organization. The organization's mission is to "provide innovative and meaningful measurement solutions that improve teaching and learning."

Questions and item types on Common Core Standards assessments require students to use technology in ways other than simply clicking on the correct answer. Some of the new item types include drag-and-drop technology, where the student selects something and drags it to a different spot on the screen. This might be a number to complete an equation or a sentence to complete a paragraph.

Jack is counting by 10s from zero to 50. Drag three number tiles into the boxes to fill in the missing numbers.

Example of how drag-and-drop technology is used on Common Core Standards assessments.

Text highlighting also shows up in ELA testing, prompting students to select parts of stories and articles that support their thinking. Other enhanced item types are questions with multiple correct answers, equation building, drop-down menus, constructed responses and multipart questions.

Triangle EFG is similar to triangle JFL. Click on a pair of corresponding sides in the triangle.

Example of how hot-spot animation is used on Common Core Standards assessments.

Visit the Northwest Evaluation Association to learn more about the Common Core’s technology-enhanced item types.

How to Teach Parents About the Common Core

Teachers spend hours studying education and child development. Learning and understanding new national standards, while seemingly daunting, is not an impossible feat. Overall, the Common Core Standards are logical progressions of student learning in K-12 in English language arts and math. Yes, there are big shifts in how they will teach concepts, but as educators, teachers understand why they teach them.

It is important that teachers use this expertise to explain the Common Core Standards to the parents of their students and school community. The public perception of the standards is that they are "impossible" or "outrageous." Teachers can help parents better understand what kind of work their children are doing in class, how it leads to greater academic success, and what parents can do to foster learning at home.

The majority of today's parents learned math by memorizing algorithms, so learning about conceptual-based number sense may be a difficult transition.

Teachers should consider the following seven ways to help parents understand how the Common Core is supporting what their children are learning in the classroom:

  1. Hold parent information meetings to discuss upcoming standards.
  2. Post examples or videos on a classroom website that will help parents help their children with homework.
  3. Provide written, step-by-step explanations for new problem-solving methods in math. Remember, most parents learned math by memorizing algorithms, so learning about conceptual-based number sense may be a difficult transition. Providing parents with information and explanations on how to solve problems conceptually may help ease their worries.
  4. Provide book lists that match students' Lexile level and text complexity levels at grade level. Be sure to include informational texts on those suggested reading lists.
  5. Provide copies of student writing samples, which can be found in Appendix C of the Common Core Standards. Better yet, compile classroom writing exemplars to familiarize parents with what quality writing looks like at their child's grade level.
  6. Hold a Common Core math fair and ask each class to demonstrate what kind of problem-solving they're working on in class.
  7. Share test-prep resources with parents so they can see and use sample questions with their children.

Common Core Tools and Resources

Resources from the Common Core Standards Initiative

Common Core Resources for English Language Arts

Common Core Resources for Math

Common Core Lesson Plan Resources

EngageNY: Compilation of Common Core curriculum for New York state, along with free test-prep resources

Common Core in Action: Campaign from Edutopia that includes grade- and subject-specific resources for lessons aligned to the Common Core

Common Sense for Common Core: Scholastic's website of lessons aligned to the Common Core

ReadWriteThink: Created by the International Literacy Association and the NCTE, ReadWriteThink's ELA lessons are all aligned to the Common Core.

BetterLesson: Resource for K-12 lesson plans in Common Core Math and Common Core ELA

Common Core Resources for Parents

Introducing the Common Core to Parents and Community Members: A tool kit and PowerPoint presentations for how to discuss new standards with all K-12 stakeholders

PTA Parent Guides: Created by the Parent Teacher Association, these guides cover grades K-8 in ELA and math and explain expectations for children at each grade level.

Parent Roadmaps: Guides from the Council of the Great City Schools that include easy-to-understand explanations of standards, as well as ways for parents to help at home.

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