Covering the Common Core
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 last March, California students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the Smarter Balanced assessments – a battery of tests in English language arts and math that was designed to assess how well students were doing in those subjects based on instruction they received using the Common Core standards. In most school districts, these tests for the first time were being taken on computers, with questions that adjusted 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.
A number of organizations have published online Common Core resources. Following are some of sites explaining various aspects of the Common Core State Standards:
- Read the standards in their entirety.
- NBC Today lists five things parents need to know.
- The California PTA offers Common Core information in six languages.
- The Council of the Great City Schools has compiled videos and other resources for parents.
- Achieve The Core has listed Common Core resources for parents and community members.
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.
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
Modesto teacher Brandy Frakes shares her "aha" moment with Common Core.
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