An Overview of the Common Core State Standards

The 2013-14 school year is an important one for educators and students alike. It’s the year educators begin fully implementing the Common Core Standards in many states across the United States. Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the Common Core Standards and have already or are in the process of implementing the Standards in every classroom. It’s not just important for your child’s classroom teacher to understand the English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics Common Core Standards. As a parent, it is important to understand how Common Core will change the classroom experience for your child.


What will the Common Core Standards do for my child?
The Common Core Standards clarify and define the knowledge and skills your child should acquire from their K-12 education. This knowledge and skillset will enable your child to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The evidence-based, globally informed Common Core Standards will help your child by:

  • Preparing your child for college and workplace expectations
  • Strengthening your child’s chances of succeeding in today’s global economy and society
  • Providing consistency between classrooms and schools nationwide
  • Encouraging rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills

The Common Core State Standards do these things by providing a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. Unlike your state’s previous standards, which were unique to just your state, the Common Core Standards enable collaboration between the states on a range of tools and policies including the development of common comprehensive assessment tests.
What exactly do the Common Core Standards require?
The Common Core Standards are broken into two sets: English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.
English Language Arts promotes the integration of literacy throughout all subject areas. Students are not learning simply to read, write and speak. They are learning to read and understand fiction and non-fiction texts that span a wide variety of subjects. These Common Core Standards incorporate both content and skills. On a national level, the English Language Arts standards require certain critical content for all students, including:

  • Classical myths and stories from around the world
  • America’s Founding Documents
  • Foundational American literature
  • Shakespeare

The Mathematics Common Core standards are organized by grade level. In Mathematics grades K-5, the Common Core Standards lay a solid foundation in:

  • Whole numbers
  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
  • Fractions
  • Decimals

These math concepts might sound elementary (and they are!), but taken together, they support a student’s ability to learn and apply more demanding math concepts and mathematical procedures. At the higher grade levels, the Common Core requires students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges. As your student’s math ability matures they will gain both a deeper understanding of the mathematics Common Core Standards and be able to display them in a more mathematically mature way.
How will the Common Core Standards change my child’s learning experience?
In short, the Common Core Standards help your child’s teachers focus on what’s most important for their students. One of the biggest changes in your child’s education brought about by the Common Core will be the increased focus on literacy. Instead of just the English or English Language Arts teachers being responsible for teaching your child how to write, this responsibility will be shared by English, history, and yes, even science and mathematics teachers. Under the new Common Core Standards, an English lesson might ask elementary school students to decide whether “The Giving Tree” in Shel Silverstein’s book is strong or weak, and refer to the text to defend their argument.
Another change you can expect to see is depth of learning, not breadth of learning. The Common Core Standards narrows the list of topics covered to allow teachers to prioritize critical thinking over short term memorization, emphasizing collaboration and integrating technological advances in their classroom.  For example, under the new Common Core, a math lesson won’t require your child to memorize a trick to solve an equation as much as it will on recognizing what makes the math formula work. The result will be classrooms focusing on developing reasoning and ability instead of just pushing large quantities of information.
As a parent, you are the ultimate keeper and advocate for your child’s education. Be aware that staying informed about the Common Core Standards will have great influence over your child’s education. There’s a lot of Common Core Standards misinformation floating around and the more you know, the more you can put this misinformation to bed. We recommend visiting the Myth vs. Fact Page and the FAQ page to answer more questions you may have about the Common Core Standards.

More About the Common Core State Standards:
The Common Core State Standards: New Approach to Student Assessment»
The Common Core State Standards: Mathematics»
The Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts»