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Forty-three states, including California, have adopted the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. An initiative of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core Standards defines knowledge and skills that students should have mastered by the end of each grade in order to graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and the workplace. In the spring of 2015 students will take the Smarter Balanced assessments aligned with the standards.
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Common Core Explained

The Common Core State Standards are designed to improve students' chances of success in college and careers by setting uniform standards for what students should know in math and English language arts by the end of each school year, and by the time they graduate from high school. An initiative spurred by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core State Standards have been adopted by forty-three states.

Among the major instructional changes are: a substantial increase in the amount of non-fiction reading and writing, a greater emphasis on collaborative activities, and the expectation that math students will not only be able to solve problems but explain how they did so.

Beginning in March 2015, California students in grades 3-8 and 11 have been taking the Smarter Balanced assessments – a battery of tests in English language arts and math that is designed to assess how well students are doing in those subjects based on instruction they have received using the Common Core standards. In most school districts, these tests for the first time are being taken on computers, with questions that adjust in real time to students' performance.

California, home to one in eight of the nation's public school students, is crucial to the success of the Common Core. Conditions seem especially favorable for implementing the standards in California, at least compared to many other states. Both Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators support the Common Core, as do the state's major teachers' unions.

At the same time, California faces significant challenges in implementing the standards in its racially, ethnically, and economically diverse school system. Nearly 60 percent of California's more than 6 million students qualify for free or reduced price meals. In many districts, the percentage is far higher than that. In addition, more than one in four California public-school students are classified as English learners, one of the highest shares in the country. Finally, more than 300,000 teachers, along with principals and other school administrators, must be both educated about the new standards and prepared to implement them.

Resources

A number of organizations have published online Common Core resources. Following are some of sites explaining various aspects of the Common Core State Standards:

Frequently Asked Questions

Several organizations have compiled lists of frequently asked questions regarding the Common Core State Standards. Here are some of the sites answering these questions from a range of perspectives.

EdSource Today is tracking a small number of California school districts in diverse regions of the state as they implement the Common Core State Standards. These stories will highlight both the challenges that educators, parents and students will face and the progress they make this year and in the 2015-16 school year.

Garden Grove Unified School District

  • Student enrollment: 46,936
  • English learners: 40.9 percent
  • Free/reduced price meals: 77.2 percent

Fresno Unified School District

  • Student enrollment: 73,353
  • English Learners: 24 percent
  • Free/reduced price meals: 83.8 percent

Elk Grove Unified School District

  • Student enrollment: 62,499
  • English learners: 16.8 percent
  • Free/reduced priced meals: 50.6 precent

Visalia Unified School District

  • Student enrollment: 27,835
  • English learners: 16.8 percent
  • Free/reduced price meals: 75.8 percent

Santa Ana Unified School District

  • Student enrollment: 57,499
  • English learners: 47.8 percent
  • Free/reduced meals: 88.1 percent

San Jose Unified School District

  • Student enrollment: 33,152
  • English Learners: 24.6 percent
  • Free/reduced price meals: 44.6 percent

Video

Modesto teacher Brandy Frakes shares her "aha" moment with Common Core.

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