Though there are a number of online resources with helpful information about the common core, some rumors and myths persist. Here are a few facts to keep in mind:
States developed these standards. The nation’s governors and state education commissioners spearheaded common core development to provide clear and consistent understanding of the reading and math knowledge and skills that students will need as they pursue lifelong learning and success in their careers. Working through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, state leaders collaborated with educators, subject matter experts, and researchers to write and review the standards. The federal government was not involved with the development of the common core standards.
The federal government did not require states to adopt the standards. In fact, four states, Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia, have chosen not to adopt the standards in either subject, and Minnesota has adopted the English language arts standards but not the math standards. However, the federal government’s Race to the Top grant competition incentivized states to adopt college and career readiness standards, such as common core, by providing state applicants with additional points for doing so. Additionally, the United States Department of Education required states to adopt either the common core standards or another set of reading and math college- and career-ready standards approved by its network of higher education institutions.
The standards are not a curriculum. Standards are targets for what students should know and be able to do. Curricula are the instructional plans and strategies that educators use to help their students reach those expectations. The CCSS are a set of shared goals for the knowledge and skills students should possess in English language arts and mathematics to be proficient in those subjects. As such, districts and schools should use the standards as a basis for developing their own curricula by designing course content, choosing appropriate instructional strategies, developing learning activities, continuously gauging student understanding, and adjusting instruction accordingly.
California’s four systems of higher education have endorsed the common core standards. The University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities are engaging in a comprehensive, coordinated approach for implementation to link the K-12 system with higher education on standards, assessments, and teacher training.
Common core does not relinquish local control. School boards remain responsible for setting their own visions and executing their own unique approaches for instruction and curriculum. In addition, districts and schools will continue to choose their own textbooks and instructional materials, provide teachers with tailored professional development and design supports and interventions to help students reach proficiency. School districts have always abided by state-approved education standards. At the same time, districts have maintained the flexibility and responsibility to implement the state-approved standards in a manner that reflects the needs of their communities. Even with the implementation of common core, educators and local communities will continue to make decisions about what happens in their districts, schools, and classrooms.