The goal of Common Core is to prepare all students to be ready for college and careers. Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, including California. The standards articulate what students are expected to learn, beginning with kindergarten and continuing at every level, through the 12th grade.
Much of the thinking and rigor in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is already supported by the curriculum and teaching practices in our schools. We are now working on aligning all of our classrooms with the Common Core Standards. By 2014-15, when California moves from the current California Standards Test (CST) to a standardized assessment (developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) we will be ready and aligned with CCSS to more fully assess student learning.
Our district has a specialized team of educators who have become experts on Common Core Standards and are excited about using these standards to facilitate learning. Several professional development sessions on the new standards have been held at schools across the district, and the new standards are being well-received by teachers.
What’s new about the Common Core?
In this first phase of implementation, our teachers and staff are looking at what is different about the Common Core and how to integrate the positive changes into their teaching practices.
The Common Core emphasizes:
- Fewer standards to teach at each grade level in favor of greater depth;
- Literacy skills taught across subject areas;
- Providing content-rich non-fiction and academic language;
- Math standards as an extension of prior learning;
- The integration of math in science and technical subject areas;
- Sharing of results and best practices across the nation.
As Common Core is implemented in all of our schools and across the State of California, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is working to align standardized tests with the CCSS and to develop assessment tools that provide teachers, schools, and districts with more meaningful feedback about student learning.
Preparing for full implementation of the Common Core State Standards in 2014-15 means principals, teachers, and specialized staff are piloting new state assessments, participating in professional development, ordering needed instructional materials, and planning technology upgrades so all of our schools will be ready.
Common Core: Mathematics
The new math standards were developed in context of how students’ mathematical knowledge, skill, and understanding develop over time. The standards offer a more in-depth and rigorous approach to learning math – emphasizing critical thinking, problem solving, and mathematical practices.
Mathematics standards for kindergarten through grade eight are organized by domain. Students in kindergarten through grade five are expected to achieve mastery in whole numbers arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and to develop a strong conceptual understanding and procedural skill with fractions– critical foundations for the learning of algebra. The standards for grades six and seven extend work with fractions and develop concepts such as rational numbers and proportional relationships.
The CCSS are consistent with the goal that all students succeed in Algebra 1. Students who master the content and skills through grade seven will be well-prepared for algebra in grade eight. Recognizing that all students must continue their study of mathematics, the CCSS moves students forward with grade eight standards that prepare them for higher math, including Algebra 1.
The high school standards identify the mathematics that all students should study to be college and career ready. The standards are organized by conceptual categories: number and quantity, algebra, functions, modeling, geometry, and statistics and probability. In addition, the CCSS include standards for Algebra 1, Calculus, and Advanced Placement Probability and Statistics.
Across grade levels and content areas, the CCSS are designed to balance the development of conceptual understandings with the acquisition of procedural skills. Students are expected to apply mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges, to construct sound mathematical arguments, and to be precise in their mathematical communications.
One way that teachers can know if a student has met the standard, at any grade, is in measuring a student’s ability to know why a particular math statement is true or where a math rule comes from.
As a result, the Common Core Math Standards include two types of standards:
Practice: How students are able to apply and extend math principles (procedure), and
Content: What students know about math (understanding).
Common Core: English Language Arts
The CCSS for English-language arts are divided into four strands: reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. The standards are organized by grade level for kindergarten through grade eight and by grade span for high school.
For kindergarten through grade five, the reading standards include foundational skills that foster students’ understanding and working knowledge of concepts of print, the alphabetic principle, and other basic conventions of the English language.
Standards for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects provide additional specificity about the application of reading and writing standards to subject area content.
At each grade level and grade span, the reading strand includes standards for both literature and informational text. Literature encompasses a broad range of cultures, periods, and genres (e.g., stories, folktales, fantasy, realistic fiction, drama, poetry). Informational texts include biographies and autobiographies; writings about history-social sciences, science, and the arts; technical texts; and digital sources.
The writing standards call for students to write for a variety of purposes and to use technology to produce and publish their writing. Students are expected to write in varied genres, building mastery in a range of skills and applications.
Vocabulary acquisition and practice are threaded throughout the four strands, reflecting current research on how students best learn new words. Both writing and collaborative conversations about grade level topics and text provide students opportunities to practice using new vocabulary.
Students learn to express ideas, work together, and listen carefully to integrate and evaluate information. Skills are not learned in isolation, but in connection with reading and analyzing grade-level texts and topics. Technology is used to gather and present information.
Common Core Tools for Parents
Parents are an important partner in setting students up for success in school. A set of road maps for parents with students at each grade level are available online and provide a good description of the progression of learning through the Common Core in Mathematics (Spanish) and in English Language Arts (Spanish).