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.
- 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.
- The California Department of Education provides Common Core State Standards information.
- EdSource has created a searchable database that includes Smarter Balanced test results for districts and charter schools with charts that show data according to student subgroups.
- The State Board of Education adopted a Mathematics Curriculum Framework in 2013 to help educators implement the Common Core State Standards.
- The State Board of Education adopted a list of recommended instructional materials in mathematics in 2014 that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
- The State Board of Education adopted an English Language Arts/English Language Development Curriculum Framework in 2014 that includes Common Core literacy standards for all subject areas.
- The State Board of Education adopted a list of recommended English language arts/English Language Development instructional materials in 2015 that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the state's curriculum framework.
- School, district, county and state results from the Smarter Balanced tests based on Common Core State Standards can be found on the state's California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASP, website.
- The California Department of Education explains student score reports from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP tests, on a site that includes parent guides created in partnership with the California PTA.
- Great Schools has created a Great Kids website that has state testing guides to help parents decipher their children's Smarter Balanced test scores for grades 3-8 in California.
- EdSource has created an issue brief called, "Reforming Testing and Accountability: Essential Principles for Student Success in California," that explains how Common Core tests are expected to be used in the state's new accountability system
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