An Introduction to the Common Core State Standards
Reviewed by Jon Konen, District Superintendent
What Are Common Core State Standards?
If you’re thinking about entering the field of education, you’ve likely heard about the Common Core State Standards – and some of the controversy surrounding them. If you’re wondering “What are the Common Core State Standards” read on to learn more.
The Common Core State Standards were developed in response to the variances in what students from different states learn. As a result of different educational standards between states, two students graduating at the same time in two different states could have vastly different levels of knowledge. Concerned that students were graduating high school unprepared for postsecondary education or to enter into the workforce, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) collaborated with teachers, school, administrations, context experts and others in the field of education to develop a set of clear, comprehensive standards for literacy and math that all the states could adopt. (While history and science standards are addressed, they are intended to be supplemental to state standards in these fields.)
The standards fall under two categories: English Language Arts Standards and Mathematics Standards. The English Language Arts Standards consist of five components: reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and media/technology. The goal of the English Language Arts Standards is to ensure that all high school graduates nationwide are “college and career ready” and have proficient literary, language, and writing skills needed both inside and outside the classroom.
The Mathematics Standards were designed to improve math achievement in the U.S. The goal of the Mathematics Standards is not simply for students to be able to recall mathematical rules, but to understand why the rules work and where they come from. According to the Standards, the following eight principles of mathematic practice should be taught:
- 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.
Who the Standards Affect and How They Are Being Implemented
The Common Core State Standards affect almost everyone that has any hand in education: students, teachers, school administrators and more. Teachers must adapt their curriculum, projects and tests to make sure the Standards are being addressed and that students are adequately prepared to be tested on them. Superintendents and school administrators are responsible for making sure the Standards are implemented and that their staff is receiving the support and resources they need to make this happen. And, of course, students are affected. Those who are already partway through their educational journey may be learning new information in new ways. Students in some states may have to catch up to standards that they are unable to meet because of what they did or did not learn in previous years.
So far, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Standards. States that have accepted Common Core State Standards have started to prepare for implementation in the 2014-2015 school year, the first year that the assessments aligned with the Standards will be given.
Controversy Over the Common Core State Standards
If you’ve heard anything about the Common Core State Standards, then you have likely also heard of the controversy surrounding them. Concerns over the Standards are many: fear of federal control over education, worry about the cost of the assessments, concern that teachers will be held accountable for assessment results before the Standards have been fully implemented, and lack of support for implementation from the federal level are all top concerns for teachers and administrators.
It is important to note, however, that despite the controversy, maybe educators are still in favor of the Standards and what they represent. A September poll from the National Education Association found that 75 percent of NEA members support the standards wholeheartedly or with some reservations. Of those polled, 38 percent applauded the clearer guidelines and education goals – though 55 percent did say that assessment results would factor into their performance evaluations.