Written by EPIC Founder Dr. David Conley for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in June 2014. This publication provides a clear, concise, and accurate summary of the following:
- the rationale for the Common Core State Standards
- an overview of how they were developed
- a summary of the research base supporting them
- some of the evidence that the Common Core State Standards will prepare students for college and careers
- insight into the changes in teaching and learning that are likely to occur as the standards are implemented
- how to use the standards
Excerpt From The Common Core State Standards: Insight into Their Development and Purpose
Educational standards are not new. Every state has had grade-level educational standards for at least a decade, and most for much longer than that. Standards help ensure that students in every school will acquire the knowledge and skills critical to success in college, career, and life. Standards help guide local school boards as they make critical decisions about curriculum, textbooks, teachers, course offerings, and other aspects of district instructional programs. While standards provide a framework, they do not require a certain curriculum or specific teaching methods. Those decisions are left up to educators.
In the past, vast differences in educational expectations existed across states. A 2010 study by the American Institutes of Research documented a huge expectations gap, with some states expecting their students to accomplish far more in school than other states with much lower standards. In essence, what a fourth grader was expected to know in math could vary dramatically depending on the state in which she lived. Until recently, this patchwork of high and low standards that varied from state to state had few consequences, in part because formal education was not as important to all students, many of whom were able to obtain stable, well-paying employment in their local community without high levels of education. The situation is much different today. Local economies in many parts of the country have seen radical transformation. Few jobs provide career-long security. To retain their jobs, workers need to acquire new, more complex skills. An educational system that is based on the assumption that people will live in one community doing one job their whole lives is no longer realistic. Neither is one that enables students in some parts of the country to be lifelong learners while leaving many others with minimal knowledge and skills.
The Common Core State Standards are a response to the new realities of the US economy. The role of the new common standards is to ensure that all students are able to be successful in an economy and society that is changing at a remarkable pace and that will continue to do so throughout their lifetimes. Several statistics show that this need to better prepare students for college is an urgent one. ACT annually publishes a report on the number of students taking its test who meet its college readiness benchmarks. In 2013, 54 percent of all high school graduates took the ACT, and only 26 percent of test-takers reached the college readiness level in all four areas tested (English, reading, mathematics, and science). The Institute for Education Sciences reported that 20 percent of students in 2007-2008 indicated that they took remedial courses in college. The rate was even higher for two-year institutions and open-enrollment colleges. According to data from 33 states, more than 50 percent of students entering two-year colleges and almost 20 percent of students entering four-year colleges are placed into remedial courses, which are estimated to cost more than $3 billion annually.
The Common Core State Standards allow educators to share a common language about what they want students to learn, and they enable development of high-quality materials that address the standards. They build upon previous experience with standards, both in the US and abroad, to create a focused, challenging, appropriate set of learning expectations that educators can interpret and implement locally through the curriculum, programs, and teaching methods they decide are best suited to their students.
They help educators create consistency of expectations, clarity of learning targets, and economies of scale in the production of instructional materials carefully crafted to support student success. Above all, the new standards aim to hold all students to the same high expectations for college and career readiness. While the standards do represent a challenge, they are based on expectations that students in the US and elsewhere have proven capable of meeting.
The paper was originally published by CCSSO at http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Publications/The_Common_Core_State_Standards_Insight_into_Their_Development_and_Purpose.html