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Common Core State Standards
Part 6: A General Overview
Educational Consultant/Trainer; School Improvement Facilitator
This is the sixth IAE Newsletter in a sequence that addresses
various issues related to the Common Core State Standards. All back
issues of the IAE Newsletter are available free at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html
This article provides a general overview of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The website www.corestandards.org
includes complete specific grade level emphases, and the other websites
in the Reference section below add additional useful information.
The CCSS is often mistaken as an initiative of the federal government,
but the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National
Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) began the
movement, with input from K-12 educators. In the previous system of
individual state standards, test results in one state could have
identified certain students as being proficient in a tested area. The
students could subsequently move to another state and be categorized
there as being below proficiency in that area. Many felt that this
system of differential state standards probably needed to be changed,
if standardized tests were going to be continually used to determine
K-12 subject proficiency.
Those involved in the CCSS initiative examined college levels of rigor
and complexity, and found significant discrepancies compared to high
school expectations. The CCSS groups then sought to insure that
students gradually worked up to expected collegiate beginning levels.
Further, the amount and complexity of information that is increasing at
a rate we never before experienced also suggested that K-12 students
must go far beyond merely accumulating knowledge. They also must be
challenged to think critically with higher-order thinking skills that
emphasize depth, complexity, and application.
According to the CCSS Initiative:
As specified by CCSSO and
NGA, the Standards are (1) research and evidence based, (2) aligned
with college and work expectations, (3) rigorous, and (4)
internationally benchmarked. A particular standard was included in the
document only when the best available evidence indicated that its
mastery was essential for college and career readiness in a
twenty-first-century, globally competitive society. The Standards are
intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the
Standards will be revised accordingly. (CCSS 2010, p. 3.)
Focus and Timeline
The CCSS released the College and Career Readiness Standards in the
summer of 2009, followed by the June 2010 Standards for English
Language Arts and Mathematics. The Next Generation Science Standards
were opened for comment on January 8, 2013. See http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards
CCSS standards for History are still a work in progress. Assessments
should be in place for the 2014-2015 academic year, and materials
should be approved by 2016.
The College and Career Readiness
anchor standards are consistent, broad-based expectations infused into
all grade levels and subject areas. These emphasize skills considered
necessary in both college and work environments.
Attention to 21st century skills is an important factor in the new
CCSS. Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity
are among the skills required to be successful in the world of the 21st
The CCSS for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects
have three main sections. Those for K-5 are comprehensive, while those
for 6-12 are divided into an English Language Arts (ELA) section and a
section each for history/social studies, science, and technical
subjects. These are organized into strands, with K-5 and 6-12 ELA
emphasizing Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language, and
with 6-12 history/social studies, science, and technical subjects
emphasizing Reading and Writing. Each strand has a strand-specific set
of College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards. Each broad CCR anchor
standard has an accompanying grade-specific standard, which translates
into grade-appropriate expectations.
It is noteworthy that these literacy skills should also be applied
outside the area of English Language Arts. The emphasis here is on
literacy and this should not be confused with standards for the content
in these areas. In a move toward shared responsibility, teachers
outside of the formal arena of English Language Arts must now also be
responsible for literacy. Dealing with text takes on an
increasingly important role, with a transitional emphasis in reading
toward informational text and in writing toward argument and
informational/explanatory text. Three appendices provide further
information, clarification, and detail.
The CCSS for Mathematics
organized into domains, clusters, and standards that are intended to
move away from the broad and shallow approach of current curricula to
an emphasis on mastery of topics through procedural fluency and
conceptual understanding. K-8 standards are organized by grade level
and high school standards are organized within six conceptual
categories: Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Modeling,
Geometry, and Statistics and Probability. There is an increased focus of
content within grade levels, and an increased coherence of content from
grade-to-grade. A significant additional change is that, in addition to
the standards for content, there are also standards for mathematical
practice, emphasizing factors such as making sense of problems and
perseverance in solving them, abstract and quantitative reasoning,
mathematical modeling, using appropriate tools strategically, attending
to precision, looking for and making sense of structure, and looking
for and expressing regularity in repeated reasoning.
Formal assessments using the CCSS are scheduled to begin with
the 2014-2015 academic year. Two different groups have been charged
with the task of creating these assessments: the Smarter Balanced
Assessment Consortium (SBAC; http://www.smarterbalanced.org/
) for roughly half of the states and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC; http://www.parcconline.org/
for the rest. Part of the assessments will be technology-administered
and will include free-response items. There will be options for
formative assessments to be administered at times throughout the year.
The computer-based portion of the SBAC assessment will be adaptive;
students who answer a question correctly will get more challenging
questions, and those who answer incorrectly will get simpler subsequent
A paper and pencil version of the test should be available for a period
of time. There is speculation and discussion that students and schools
using this version should perhaps be penalized by one percentile point.
The assessments will comprise the following types of items: Selected
Response Items (SR), Constructed Response Items (CR), Technology
Enhanced Items/Tasks (TE), and Performance Tasks (PT).
- Selected Response refers to what is commonly called multiple choice.
- The more complex Constructed Response requires students to
develop personal answers without suggested choices. Students produce a
text or numerical response in order to gather evidence about their
knowledge/understanding of a given assessment target.
- Technology Enhanced Items/Tasks use computer-based administration
to assess a deeper understanding of content and skills than would
otherwise be possible with traditional item types. Technology enhanced
items use technology to collect evidence through a non-traditional
response type, such as editing text or drawing an object.
- Performance Tasks are intended to measure a student’s ability to
integrate knowledge and skills across multiple standards—a key
component of college and career readiness. Performance tasks measure
such capabilities as depth of understanding, research skills, and
complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with selected or
constructed response items.
- English Language Arts – Performance Tasks for English Language
Arts will focus on reading, writing, speaking and listening, and
research claims. They measure capacities such as depth of
understanding, interpretive and analytical ability, basic recall,
synthesis, and research.
- Mathematics – Performance Tasks for Math will integrate knowledge
and skills across multiple claims, measure capacities such as depth of
understanding, research skills, and/or complex analysis with relevant
evidence. These tasks require student-initiated planning, management of
information/data and ideas, and/or interaction with other materials.
They will also reflect real-world task and/or scenario-based problems,
allow for multiple approaches, represent content that is relevant and
meaningful to students, allow for demonstration of important knowledge
and skills, require scoring that focuses on the essence of the claim(s)
for which the task was written, and seem feasible for the
school/classroom environment. Mathematical modeling and application are
In the development of these standards, some developers were
understandably concerned about existing excess standardization, and
others felt that states needed to have some leeway to include
information that could be state specific. Every state, therefore, was
allowed to supplement the national CCSS by up to 15%.
In many ways, the CCSS and their implementation are a work in progress
and will evolve as more evidence and information become available.
According to the CCSS initiative:
These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing
business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states
to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of
standards based reforms. It is time to recognize that standards are not
just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep. (CCSS.
2010, p. 5.)
Suggestion: Please visit the website of your respective State Department of Education.
Achieve. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from http://www.achieve.org.
College and Career Readiness. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from http://www.collegecareerready.org.
Common Core State Standards Initiative. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from http://www.corestandards.org.
Next Generation Science. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from http://www.nextgenscience.org/.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from http://www.p21.org.
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from http:// www.parcconline.org.
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from http://www.smarterbalanced.org.
David Ghoogasian, educational consultant/trainer and school
improvement facilitator, has a rich background in education, which
includes teaching, counseling, administration, and professional
development. A former school principal, Mr. Ghoogasian trains and
teaches parents, students, and educators with backgrounds ranging from
early childhood education through college and university instruction.
His philosophical approach and work weave together important findings
in education, psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, behavioral
science, communication, other relevant disciplines, and experience. He
teaches and trains through his own company, The Lyceum, as well as
through the University of California, Riverside, Irvine, and San Diego
education extension programs.
Mr. Ghoogasian is a member of the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE)
and Professional Teaching certificate program advisory boards at UCI
Extension. He has served on visiting committees for the Western
Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Schools
and has been a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development (ASCD) and the California Association for the Gifted (CAG).
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