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Keeping Up With Common Core

Leading Change newsletter now includes expanded Common Core update

Welcome to EdSource’s new Common Core update web page, which is being produced in conjunction with our updated ‘Leading Change’ newsletter. The newsletter now has an expanded focus: the range of new California academic standards — from the Common Core standards in English language arts and math, to the Next Generation Science Standards and the history-social science standards — as well as how schools will be held accountable for measuring their progress on them.

You can subscribe to the newsletter here. Subscribers will find the newsletter in their email inbox twice a month. Additional resources can be found at our math and science page.

We will update our website often with relevant news, interviews, events and opportunities to participate in online #EdSourceChats. You can also engage us via Twitter.

We’d also like to hear your ideas and strategies for implementing California academic standards that we can share with others in the field.  And please share this link to our Common Core web page with your friends and colleagues.

Thanks for reading!

Theresa Harrington and Erin Brownfield


New California School Dashboard

The California Department of Education and other organizations have created several resources to help educators and the public understand and navigate the new California School Dashboard, which includes data that will be used for school and district accountability purposes beginning next fall.

These resources include:

  • California Department of Education Communications Toolkit.
  • Alameda County Office of Education Dashboard website, including video and infographics.
  • Ed100 Dashboard explanatory blog.
  • EdSource searchable database with “comparisons clipboard.”

EdReports Curriculum Reviews

The nonprofit organization EdReports, which reviews curriculum materials based on their alignment to Common Core standards in math and English language arts, recently released six new reports, including two for math and four for English language arts instruction. The reports include color-coded ratings that show whether or not materials are aligned to the standards. Green signifies they are aligned, yellow shows partial alignment and red designates lack of alignment. If materials are at least partially aligned, EdReports reviewers also rate the usability of the materials for students and teachers using the same color-coded system.

The new reports review:

The organization has also launched a California-specific website called the California Curriculum Collaborative, created in partnership with Pivot Learning, which also lists all Common Core curriculum materials recommended by the state Board of Education.

EdReports Seeks Curriculum Reviewers

EdReports relies on educators from across the country to review curriculum materials for its website. The nonprofit organization is currently seeking experts to serve as Content Reviewers. More details and an online application are available here. 

Johns Hopkins University reviews academic programs based on research

The Center for Research and Reform in Education in the School of Education at the John Hopkins University launched a new website earlier this month to help educators and administrators evaluate K-12 math and reading programs according to requirements established in the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. However, the U.S. Senate later voted to rescind accountability regulations under that law.

Still, anyone interested in learning about evidence-based programs may find the website, called Evidence for ESSA, useful.

It relies on the center’s faculty, along with scholarly studies, to determine an academic program’s effectiveness.

The website was established to function like a consumer report aimed at determining how well programs were vetted, said Robert Slavin, director of the center, in a university article.

“State chiefs, district superintendents, and principals are the primary audience —the people making decisions about programs for schoolchildren,” he said. “But there are many other people — parents and teachers, for example — who could use this information to advocate for particular programs that they think would be better for their kids. And we hope they will.”

Read more here.

Common Core Standards: What educators are saying

Across the country, teachers are adapting their instructional practices to the new Common Core standards in math and English language arts. A recent report, called Listening and Learning from Teachers: A Summary of Focus Groups on the Common Core and Assessments, reveals support, concerns and insights about the standards expressed by elementary teachers in Delaware, Illinois, Utah and Wisconsin. The teachers also discussed how the standards are affecting curricula and instructional materials, testing, student achievement data and accountability.

Although California teachers were not involved in these discussions, many of the comments shared may ring true for those working to implement the standards in this state.

If you’d like to weigh in on how standards are affecting instruction in your school, please participate in our Common Core #EdSourceChat!

Read more

Physics professor defends a key feature of Common Core math

Writing for Forbes, author and physics professor Chad Orzel defends Common Core math’s emphasis on explaining how students get their answers. “Forcing students to not just generate numbers but understand and explain the process they used is one of the best developments I’ve seen in the math my kids are learning. I hope they keep this up all the way through school, because it will make them better scientists or engineers (should they choose to go that route), and just better thinkers in general.” Read more

What are states actually changing about Common Core?

According to a new analysis highlighted in an article at Education Week, though 21 states are revising the Common Core standards or have already  done so, most of the changes are minor: “Nearly 70 percent of the changes that were made in either math or language arts across all grades were simply wording or format clarifications to make the standards easier for educators or the public to understand.” Read more.


How have the Common Core standards changed instruction in your school?

Tweet your comments to @EdSource #EdSourceChat. We'll include some of your responses in the next Common Core Update!

Q & A’s on Common Core

Q&A: USC associate professor discusses Common Core standards, new online guide

Dr. Corinne Hyde talks about Common Core controversy, standards implementation, tests, curriculum materials and USC’s online guide to the Common Core.

FAQ: What parents should know about the Common Core, by reporter Theresa Harrington

Q&A: Tips and insights from a Common Core math expert

Sean Nank, American College of Education professor, discusses Common Core math, instructional strategies, curriculum, and the beauty of patterns.

How is the new Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, affecting Common Core implementation?  

Interview with Anne Udall, of the New Teacher Center

Upcoming Events

Statewide workshops to explain new California School Dashboard

The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, the new state agency overseeing school improvement, is holding workshops around the state, through April 1. The sessions will explain how school districts can use the new school and district accountability dashboard, which was launched earlier this month, to set priorities in their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPS). Go here to see the dates and workshop locations and to register. 

California History-Social Science Framework Rollout Events, May 2 – Nov. 1, 2017

California County Offices of Education and the California History-Social Science Project are each hosting several “rollout events” to introduce educators and administrators to the state’s new History-Social Science Framework, or guidelines, adopted by the state Board of Education last July.

Workshops and informational sessions at the one-day events will cover: U.S. history, world history, K-12 inquiry, K-12 literacy, economics, civics and citizenship, geography, environmental literacy, ethnic studies, professional development, assessments, access and equity, and administrator sessions.

The April event hosted by the California History-Social Science Project is sold out. Space is still available for sessions to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Santa Clara County Office of Education and Oct. 11 at Cal Poly Pomona. Cost is $225 per person. Registration and more information is at http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/programs/framework.

The Tulare County rollout event hosted by County Offices of Education is sold out. Space is available at sessions to be held May 2 and Nov. 1 at the Los Angeles County Office of Education and Sept. 7 at the Ventura County Office of Education. Cost is $125 per person. Registration and more information is at https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1902177.

California Curriculum Collaborative Instructional Materials Workshops, April 6 – May 23, 2017

The California Curriculum Collaborative, a partnership between Pivot Learning and EdReports.org, will present four free regional workshops this spring designed to support curriculum adoption in districts and charter schools. The sessions will highlight reviews of high-quality, standards-aligned curriculum materials, suggest best-practices in the selection process. Pivot is a nonprofit organization that provides educational training to schools and districts. EdReports is a nonprofit that reviews curriculum materials based on their alignment to the Common Core standards.

Workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (lunch is provided) April 6 in Chico, April 26 in Orange County, May 4 in Fresno, and May 23 in Oakland.

More information and registration details are here.

5th annual California STEAM Symposium in San Francisco, December 10-11, 2017

The 2017 California STEAM Symposium (formerly STEM Symposium) brings together nearly 3,000 educators from across the state to discuss improved STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) instruction for K-12 students. The event provides educators with professional learning opportunities, as well as resources to support high quality instruction.

More information and registration details are at: http://www.stemcalifornia.org

Forty-three states, including California, have adopted the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. An initiative spurred by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core state Standards define 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, California students took the Smarter Balanced assessments aligned with the standards for the first time. The 2016 results showed growth statewide, as teachers and students became more familiar 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, but some have since announced major rewrites or replacements, leaving 30 states, plus the District of Columbia sticking to the standards.

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 are not only able to solve problems but explain how they did so.

Beginning in 2015, 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 taken on computers, with questions that adjusted in real time to students' answers.

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, needed to be educated about the new standards before they could implement them.

EdSource 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 highlight the challenges that educators, parents and students are facing as well as the progress they are making through the 2016-17 school year. The districts EdSource is following are: Elk Grove Unified, Fresno Unified, Garden Grove Unified, San Jose Unified, Santa Ana Unified and Visalia Unified. In addition, EdSource is following the Aspire charter school system, which includes 35 schools throughout the state.

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