Common Core State Standards
Introduction to Common Core State Standards
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) outline grade level goals in math and English Language Arts (ELA) and Literacy for all K-12 students. The goals are designed to prepare students for the advanced math and literacy skills needed for college, career success, and to compete in the global economy. The CCSS communicate what is expected of students at each grade level. Until now, every state had different learning standards. The CCSS bring consistency among participating districts and states, and increase the rigor of the learning goals.
States are on the doorstep of full-blown implementation of CCSS, soon to be known as Washington State Learning Standards. Several states are rethinking their support of CCSS. A few have reversed course, a few have rebranded the effort, and a few have backed out of the National Assessment Consortia and are designing stand alone assessments. It is believed the opposition is sometimes due to a lack of understanding.
The conservative Fordham Foundation awarded the Common Core math standards an A- and the English Language Arts (ELA) standards a B+. It called both sets of standards “solidly in the honors range” and “very, very strong,” adding that they are clearer and more rigorous than the standards currently used by the vast majority of states.
Four Common Myths & Facts Concerning CCSS
Adopting Common Core Standards means bringing all states' standards down to the lowest common denominator. In other words, it means "dumbing down" our expectations for students.
The standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for college, career and life. Even the best state standards will move to the next level. Ellensburg teachers have spent two years, going on three, gaining a deep understanding of the standards and aligning them to our curriculum. Ask anyone who has been studying the standards and they will tell you the rigor at each grade level has increased.
These standards amount to a national curriculum for our schools.
The Common Core is not a curriculum. It is a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed in our world today. Educators in each district will decide how these standards are to be met and with what curriculum.
The standards tell teachers what to teach.
Teachers know best about what works in the classroom. That is why these standards establish what students need to learn, but do not dictate how teachers should teach. Schools and teachers will decide how best to help students reach the standards.
The CCSS will result in a national database of private student information.
The standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for college, There are no data collection requirements for states adopting the standards. Standards define expectations for what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade. Implementing the CCSS does not require data collection.
Key Shifts of the Standards: ELA/Literacy
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts/Literacy describe the expertise students will develop in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. Students will use and strengthen these skills in other subjects, such as Social Studies, Science, and Technical subjects.
1. Regular Practice with Complex Texts and Their Academic Language
Rather than focusing solely on the skills of reading and writing, the ELA/Literacy standards highlight the growing complexity of the texts students must read to be ready for the demands of college, career, and life. Closely related to text complexity and inextricably connected to reading comprehension is a focus on academic vocabulary: words that appear in a variety of content areas (such as ignite and commit).
2. Reading, Writing, and Speaking Grounded in Evidence from Texts, Both Literary and Informational
The Common Core emphasizes using evidence from texts to present careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information. Rather than asking students questions they can answer solely from their prior knowledge and experience, the standards call for students to answer questions that depend on their having read the texts with care.
3. Building Knowledge Through Content-rich Nonfiction
Students must be immersed in information about the world around them if they are to develop the strong general knowledge and vocabulary they need to become successful readers and be prepared for college, career, and life. Informational texts play an important part in building students’ content knowledge. Further, it is vital for students to have extensive opportunities to build knowledge through texts so they can learn independently.
Key Shifts of the Standards: Mathematics
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics include two types of standards: mathematical content (what students know about math) and mathematical practice (how students are able to apply and extend math principles). The two are linked together while students are learning.
The Common Core calls for greater focus in mathematics. Rather than racing to cover many topics in a mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum, the standards ask math teachers to significantly narrow and deepen the way time and energy are spent in the classroom. This means focusing deeply on the major work of each grade as follows:
- Grades K-2: Concepts, skills, and problem solving related to addition and subtraction
- Grades 3-5: Concepts, skills, and problem solving related to multiplication and division of whole numbers and fractions
- Grade 6: Ratios and proportional relationships, and early algebraic expressions and equations
- Grade 7: Ratios and proportional relationships, and arithmetic of rational numbers
- Grade 8: Linear algebra and linear functions
This focus will help students gain strong foundations, including a solid understanding of concepts, a high degree of procedural skill and fluency, and the ability to apply the math they know to solve problems inside and outside the classroom.
2. Coherence: Linking Topics and Thinking Across Grades
Mathematics is not a list of disconnected topics, tricks, or mnemonics; it is a coherent body of knowledge made up of interconnected concepts. Therefore, the standards are designed around coherent progressions from grade to grade. Learning is carefully connected across grades so that students can build new understanding onto foundations built in previous years. Each standard is not a new event, but an extension of previous learning.
3. Rigor: Pursue Conceptual Understanding, Procedural Skills and Fluency, and Application with Equal Intensity
Rigor refers to deep, authentic command of mathematical concepts, not making math harder or introducing topics at earlier grades. To help students meet the standards, educators will need to pursue, with equal intensity, three aspects of rigor in the major work of each grade: conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and application.
Conceptual Understanding: The standards call for conceptual understanding of key concepts, such as place value and ratios. Students must be able to access concepts from a number of perspectives in order to see math as more than a set of mnemonics or discrete procedures.
Procedural Skills and Fluency: The standards call for speed and accuracy in calculation. Students must practice core functions, such as single-digit multiplication, in order to have access to more complex concepts and procedures. Fluency must be addressed in the classroom or through supporting materials, as some students might require more practice than others.
Application: The standards call for students to use math in situations that require mathematical knowledge. Correctly applying mathematical knowledge depends on students having a solid conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
- Model with mathematics
- Use appropriate tools strategically
- Attend to precision
- Look for and make use of structure
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning
Washington State Learning Standards
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction develops the state's learning standards and oversees the assessment of the learning standards for state and federal accountability purposes. In addition to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics, Washington State learning standards are called Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs), which define what all students should know and be able to do at each grade level.
- Read with comprehension, write effectively, and communicate successfully in a variety of ways and settings and with a variety of audiences;
- Know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical, and life sciences; civics and history, including different cultures and participation in representative government; geography; arts; and health and fitness;
- Think analytically, logically, and creatively, and to integrate technology literacy and fluency as well as different experiences and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems; and
- Understand the importance of work and finance and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities.
This organization provides parents with concrete tips and ideas for improving student learning by grade and subject area. Of note, they have a helpful library of videos that show grade-by-grade reading, math, and writing skills in action.
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
The State of Washington has developed "Your Child's Progress" to help parents understand learning standards in all subjects from First grade through High School for the 2014-15 school year There is also detailed information, by grade level, about the schedule for State assessment windows. Materials are available online and in print for English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
Common Core State Standards Initiative
This organization is where the state-led effort to develop common standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts all started. The complete standards are available to read and download here. This site also has a strong FAQ and an informative "Myths vs. Facts" section.
Ready WA Coalition
Ready Washington is a coalition of Washington state education agencies, associations and advocacy organizations that has created Common Core education materials tailored to parents and interested citizens who want to learn more about the history and rationale behind the state-led Common Core standards. The Frequently Asked Questions section is very informative and there's also a link to a practice Smarter Balanced assessment.
Council of the Great City Schools
This organization of urban public school districts has created an extensive website on the Common Core State Standards. Their Parent Roadmaps provide specific information on what students will learn at grades Kindergarten through High School and how parents can help student learn outside of school. Materials are available in English and Spanish.
The National Parent Teacher Association created Parents' Guides to Student Success. These guides provide an overview of what your child will learn by the end of each grade in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, activities that parents can do at home and methods for building stronger relationships with your child's teacher.