Saturday, January 17, 2015

Common Core Standards

I thought I'd add an excerpt from a book chapter that was published last fall in the book Best Practices of Literacy Instruction that I co-authored which talks about the common core. 

In an effort to “raise the bar” of literacy achievement expectations to assure readiness of U.S. students for career and college upon high school graduation, the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (NGA & CCSSO, 2010) joined together in the adoption, implementation, and assessment of the CCSS for the English language arts (K–12) (ELA K–12 CCSS).

As of this writing, 45 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the ELA K–12 CCSS. This state-by-state adoption of learning standards represents the first time in U.S. history that there has been a near border-to-border coordination of learning goals. The vast majority of teachers and students nationally will be using these ELA K–12 CCSS or something closely related to them now or in the near future.

Not only do the CCSS represent the most extensive basis in history for national agreement on learning standards concerning what students should know and be able to do in literacy, but these new standards are markedly higher than past standards in terms of what they expect teachers to accomplish with their students (Carmichael, Martino, Porter-Magee, & Wilson, 2010; McLaughlin & Overturf, 2013; Morrow, Wixson, & Shanahan, 2013). In the past, educational standards have usually been written using a developmental model from youngest to oldest learners. With the CCSS, the designers seemed to have followed the recommendations of the late Stephen Covey (2004) in his book titled, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; they began with the end in mind. In other words, they reverse-engineered the CCSS by starting with what is expected of college- and career-ready high school seniors, and then reverse-engineered the CCSS from there. As Shanahan (2013, p. 208) wrote, “Past standards have represented what educators thought they could accomplish, while the CCSS are a description of what students would need to learn if they are to leave school able to participate in U.S. society and to compete globally by working or continuing their education.” (pp. 369-370)

I also know that each state was allowed to add up to 15% of the CCSS.  Most states opted to not change anything.  Utah decided to add only one thing (handwriting) to the English Language Arts (ELA) standards. 
The SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence) test was used for the first time in Utah last spring to test the CCSS and results have not returned yet.  It is a computer-based test that is summative (given at the end of the school year to hold schools/districts/states accountable to the adopted standards).  Like many other assessments, it will be a few years to determine validity and reliability. It is a criterion test that measures each student to the criteria (or standards) and not a norm-referenced test (which measures a child against other children in their same age to determine where he/she ranks against the "normal fourth grader," for example).  For more info, you could look at

My advice with regard to CCSS is to refer to building knowledge from reputable and honest sources.  The people I know who disagree with the common core look to resources that are often not true, written emotionally, and sometimes even dishonest with photos taken, or questions copied from the test (which is illegal).  Before I read anything about CCSS, I glance at the source first to see if they are informed.  Most teachers are familiar with the need for standards to guide instruction (there have been state standards in most states for years, while these are now nationally accepted) and are busy learning and studying the best ways to teach their specific students.  There are also many new books and products and curricula being written/created to meet the needs of teachers.  I am wary of products/curricula that claim they are the only common core curricula or use the CCSS as a marketing strategy. Schools are also re-evaluating if their existing programs align with the CCSS.

For those of you who are interested in learning a little bit more about the common core, you can go to the website of the Common Core Initiative at


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