What are Common Core Standards?
According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the standards were created in order to “clearly communicate what is expected of students at each grade level. This will allow our teachers to be better equipped to know exactly what they need to help students learn and establish individualized benchmarks for them.”
The Common Core Standards Initiative, led by states and represented by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief States School Officers, has been a voluntary and collaborative effort between states, educators and others invested in education. When the standards were written, the creators considered educational research on best practices, existing state standards that were effective, and standards followed by high-performing educational systems in other countries.
Currently, there are only standards for English and math, as these subjects are used across the curriculum and students are more frequently assessed in these two areas. Ultimately, the standards are meant to benefit students and make education more equitable. In this way, the initiative hopes to narrow the achievement gap that exists between the United States and other high performing nations.
Mathematics standards exist for grades 7-12 with different domains for different grade levels. The standards state that they are not prescribed in any particular order, so that teachers have flexibility within their lessons and instructional methods. Standards are given for each individual grade level, with specific benchmarks that students should meet to achieve proficiency in the different areas.
For English language arts standards, standards also exist for each grade level in multiple domains, including Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language. English language arts standards have also been created for literacy in grades 6-12 across the subject areas of history, social studies, science and technical subjects. These have been created because students gain literacy skills in all subject areas, and should more frequently be encouraged to read and write with proficiency.
The Mapping Project
To further assist schools and teachers in implementing the CCS, the Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project was created. Currently, curriculum maps exist for English language arts and are being developed for mathematics. Each grade level map has about six thematic units that align with the CCS. While the mapping project has different creators and is a subscription service, many schools are joining as the curriculum maps make choosing and implementing standards-based curriculum far easier.
While the CCS are still in their infancy, they will continue to evolve as most states have pledged their support to a more unified national educational system. Their effectiveness has yet to be assessed, but come the 2014-2015 school year, end of year assessments aligned to the CCS will be administered.