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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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