What are the Common Core State Standards?
The Common Core State Standards, or “Common Core,” is a set of high academic learning standards in math and English language arts that will better prepare students for success in college, work, and life. The standards, which set learning expectations for students at every grade level, have been developed and voluntarily adopted by 46 states — unprecedented cooperation in our nation’s history.
Until now, every state had different learning standards. Common Core fixes that and raises the bar for learning. This is a big change in the way students learn and one that will take time to see results, but it's an approach that will help Washington students compete for the quality jobs our state has to offer.
Why is Common Core important to you and your child?
Common Core provides benchmarks, or standards, for teaching and learning at every grade level. The standards are consistent across states and match the standards used by top-performing nations. Consistent learning standards will help parents and teachers work together to make sure students have the opportunities they need to succeed in school and in life.
Who developed the Common Core?
The Common Core is a state-led initiative. Hundreds of teachers, education researchers, mathematicians, and other experts across the country collaborated in developing the Common Core, with state governors and state schools chiefs both in leading roles since 2009.
Common Core has earned an unprecedented level of cooperation between states because more and more people understand the need to better prepare our students for a global economy and a mobile society. With the Common Core, nearly every state is working together and sharing resources to help our kids get ready for life after high school.
Do people in Washington support Common Core?
Yes, 80% of parents, teachers and people like you support the Common Core (January 2013 poll by Strategies 360 for Washington STEM). And 70% of teachers and voters agree that common learning standards across the nation in math and English will improve student learning and achievement (January 2013 poll by DHM Research for Excellent Schools Now).
What’s the difference between the Common Core standards and curriculum?
Common Core is a set of clear standards that communicate shared goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills students should have at every grade level. Standards are different from curriculum or lesson plans. While the Common Core sets high expectations for what students should know, it does not set a lesson plan or tell teachers how to teach.
A curriculum is made up of teaching and learning materials that teachers use to help construct their day-to-day lesson plans. With the Common Core, teachers will still create lesson plans and tailor instruction to meet the needs of individual students in their classrooms.
Because the Common Core connects learning within and across grades, teachers will use the goals and expectations defined by the Common Core to help students build on their learning from previous years.
Will my local schools and teachers still have control over curriculum and other local decisions?
Yes, the Common Core is a set of standards that provides a framework for what students should know at each grade level. How those standards are taught is still under the local control of Washington’s 295 school districts and more than 2,000 individual schools. Each school and district will have the flexibility and control to set the curriculum that best meets the needs of their students. With fewer, clearer standards in each subject, teachers will be able spend more class time devoted to making sure every student understands the material well.
In the 2013-14 school year, the current state exams will remain the same. However, about one-third of Washington schools will give the Smarter Balanced field test. Students taking the field test will not take the regular state exam and will not receive scores.
If we’re raising learning standards, will the tests be harder, too?
Initially, yes – but not because students knew less, but because we are expecting more. When Washington state implemented the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) in the late 1990s, student test scores were low, but only temporarily. Research shows that when you raise learning expectations, students will work harder to meet them. Common Core sets high learning expectations for all students, and it may take some time for students to meet and exceed them. With the higher, more rigorous Common Core standards, the state will administer better exams that more accurately measure students’ college and career readiness and their progress year by year. Test scores may drop when the new exams are first given, but this information will give us a clearer picture of where students are struggling and how we can better support their preparation for college and life in a competitive global economy.
Most parents and teachers understand that a drop in test scores is temporary, and that raising learning standards is important for our economy and our children’s future. Nearly 70% of teachers and voters in Washington say they’ll support an initial drop in test scores if it means students will be better prepared for college and career (January 2013 poll of 500 teachers and 500 voters by DHM Research)
Which new exams will students need to take and when?
Washington is a leader in the state-led Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which includes teachers, researchers, policymakers, and community groups working together on new exams. These new tests (also called “assessments”) will align with the Common Core standards to better measure what a student is learning and how they progress year by year. The new Smarter Balanced exams will be available during the 2014-15 school year.
When will Common Core standards be used in Washington schools?
The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has been working together with schools, districts and teachers on a transition plan — including implementation guides, local and regional supports, teacher training and resources — since 2010. The Common Core standards will be fully implemented in Washington schools in the 2013-14 school year. The following year, students will take new tests in math and English language arts that are aligned to the Common Core standards and are designed to be a better measure of what students know and understand.
Here’s an overview of the timeline:
How will schools prepare for the Common Core?
School districts across Washington are receiving training and are working to implement the Common Core. Part of their work involves engaging school leaders and teachers in selecting curriculum, planning, and developing instruction that aligns with Common Core. How will our state tests change with the Common Core standards? Washington is a leader in the state-led Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which includes teachers, researchers, policymakers, and community groups working together on new exams. These new tests (also called “assessments”) will align with the Common Core standards to better measure what a student is learning and how they progress year by year.
Why do students need the Common Core standards now?
In the United States, standards for students varied from state to state, so some states had tougher standards. For example, an “A” student in Washington may actually be trailing behind a “C” student in Colorado (or vice versa). Common Core changes that by providing consistent learning expectations for all students no matter where they live, and creating clear goals for what students should know and be able to do at every grade level.
Are the Common Core standards better than Washington’s previous academic standards?
Yes, the Common Core standards are more rigorous than Washington’s previous academic standards, and they focus on more critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for success in college and their careers. The standards were informed by the best standards in the United States and internationally, and by evidence and expertise about educational outcomes.
How do Washington’s former math standards compare with Common Core standards?
According to a Thomas B. Fordham study, our old state math standards are clear and challenging, just like the Common Core standards. However, the Common Core standards are more comprehensive because they help students connect their learning within and across grades, so each topic includes and builds on the ones before it.
Major Shifts in Math:
How do Washington’s former English language arts standards compare with Common Core standards?
The Fordham study found that our old English language arts state standards are weaker than the Common Core standards. The Common Core English language arts standards (which include reading, writing, and communication) will improve student learning with higher expectations that are aligned to college entrance requirements. They also complement what students are learning in other subjects like social studies and science.
These standards provide students with more opportunities to build knowledge through content-rich fiction, nonfiction, and informational texts (such as scientific articles or historical documents). Students will use the facts and evidence from the text as the basis for their reading and writing practice, and learn how to understand both complex texts and academic vocabulary.
Major Shifts in English Language Arts:
How will teachers support English language learners in meeting Common Core?
OSPI is working with school districts to train teachers, share resources, and apply best practices that support English language learners. In 2011, Washington joined the State Collaborative for English Language Acquisition, a multi-state group that is creating English language development standards that are based on Common Core. The new English language development standards will be released in the summer of 2013. These new standards will help teachers support the language development of our English language learners.
Here are some ways teachers can support English language learners while keeping the high expectations of the Common Core standards:
How will teachers support students with special needs in meeting Common Core?
OSPI is teaming up with school districts to provide teachers with more information, training, and support so that we can help our students with special needs.
Here are some ways teachers can support students with special needs in accessing Common Core:
Will the Common Core allow the government to collect personal information about students?
No, that would be illegal. Any information tying a student to their educational data cannot be sold or released to anyone without parental consent. Federal law protects the privacy of student information and educational records through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
How will teachers help students who are behind catch up and meet the Common Core standards?
To support a student who is struggling academically, teachers will need to identify this student’s strengths and areas of growth as soon as possible. This information will help teachers choose and apply research-based supports that will help students be successful in meeting the standards. How will the Common Core shape high school graduation requirements? Graduation requirements have four parts: (1) credits, (2) testing, (3) the high school and beyond plan, and (4) the culminating project. The Common Core may affect the credits and testing part of graduation requirements, but it is up to the state legislature to decide if graduation requirements will change. Even with the new Smarter Balanced exams that are aligned with the Common Core, students are still required to pass the HSPE and EOCs tests, or their alternatives, to graduate from high school. The legislature agreed to a 24-credit college-ready high school diploma in 2009, but that level of high school credits has not yet been funded or implemented. That means, right now, a student could graduate from high school and still not have all the credits they need to get into a state college or university like UW or WSU.
Recommended by the State Board of Education, the 24-credit diploma would provide students with a strong academic foundation, and would align high school graduation requirements with college entrance requirements. It is up to the state legislature whether to fund and implement this change in the credits required for graduation.
Can I talk my child’s teacher about Common Core?
Yes, talking to your child’s teacher is the best way to stay involved in their education. Talk to the teacher, learn about your child’s learning expectations, and help create a learning plan for them to succeed. Teachers in Washington support the Common Core. They receive on-going training and are working very hard to implement the more rigorous standards.