By Connie Matthiessen
Education standards don’t normally quicken the pulse — or even get much attention — but now that’s no longer the case. As new national education standards, known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are being implemented, they’re creating a buzz — both positive and negative.
Supporters — which include teachers’ unions, the PTA, as well as many education experts and policy makers say the standards will increase the rigor and quality of American schools and put the U.S. back on the map in terms of education excellence.
According to National PTA president Betsy Landers, the standards, “represent the single most important step towards raising the achievement bar for America’s students and improving academic performance,” and one early survey found that a majority of teachers support the standards as well.
Critics, on the other hand, suggest the CCSS will damage our current education system, though their reasons for opposing the standards are often very different. Some argue the standards are evidence of government overreach and say they do everything from push an anti-gun agenda to mine data on our children. Some education experts are also wary, insisting they will ramp up high stakes testing and promote a more rigid approach to education, among other critiques.
Are you confused yet?
To cut through the clamor, we’ve created this quick cheat sheet of CCSS fundamentals to help you make up your own mind about the standards and how they’ll affect your child’s education.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are new English language arts and mathematics standards for kindergarten to 12th grade.
The goal of the CCSS is to set clear, consistent benchmarks for what students are expected to learn in each grade to prepare them for college and career.
How do the CCSS differ from current education standards? Up until now, individual states have developed their own standards, which means that math taught to second graders in Brattleboro, Vermont may look wildly different from the math a second grader in Bozeman, Montana learns. The CCSS are the first attempt at national standards, but they were created by a coalition of states — not, as some critics claim — by the federal government. Every state in the nation decided whether or not to adopt them. The goal of the CCSS is to create consistent, rigorous education expectations for every child, no matter where he or she lives.
Developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the CCSS authors consulted with parents, educators, education policy makers, and others in developing standards they say are based on the most effective and rigorous education standards in the U.S. and around the world.
Learn more about the background and development of the Common Core State Standards.
According to the Core authors, the CCSS were developed in response to growing concern over the quality of the U.S. education system. American students receive mediocre scores compared to other developed countries in international tests, and the U.S. ranks 22nd place among developed countries in the number of students who graduate from high school.
For those students who make it to college, many do not have the basic skills they need to succeed. Each year, one million students fail college placement tests, and more than one-third of all students enroll in remedial education to learn skills they should have mastered in high school. This lack of preparation not only forces many students to spend extra years in college, it also jeopardizes their chances for college success. College completion rates are only about 59 percent for students who enroll in four-year colleges, and 31 percent for students seeking associate degrees. Lack of preparation is one of several factors that increase the likelihood that a student will drop out of college. Finally, between 1995 and 2010, the U.S. dropped from second to 13th among developed countries in the percentage of students who earn a college degree.
These discouraging outcomes are ominous because many jobs today require far more advanced skills than in the past. Recent surveys of employers in a range of professions found a general consensus that American schools aren’t preparing students for the modern workplace. Employers surveyed bemoaned workers’ lack of 21st skills — including critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and communication skills. These education failures don’t only jeopardize the futures of young people who aren't prepared for 21st century jobs, they threaten U.S. prosperity and national security.
The Common Core State Standards were designed to address these problems and boost the quality of American education in all U.S. schools by encouraging depth over breadth in learning, putting emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving, and focusing on mastery of both content and skills — specifically the 21st century skills that students will need for success in college and the workforce.
The answer to this question depends on where you live. Currently, 46 states, along with Washington DC, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, have adopted the CCSS. Four states — Nebraska, Texas, Alaska, and Virginia — chose not to adopt the standards, and Minnesota adopted only the English language arts standards.
Protests against the CCSS have erupted in a number of states where they’ve been adopted. Several states have put implementation of the CCSS on hold until these debates are resolved, and anti-CCSS groups in a number of other states are pushing for similar measures. Kentucky was the first state to fully implement the CCSS. All participating states are scheduled to implement the CCSS by 2015.
This is a key concern for many parents, and it’s a hard question to answer. The CCSS set solid grade-by grade benchmarks, but do not offer specific curricula or lesson plans. The standards provide goals for student achievement, but do not direct how teachers should reach those goals. States and individual districts will determine how to teach the CCSS and how to provide training and support to teachers.
Still, if you live in a state that has adopted the CCSS, there are some essential changes you can expect to see in your child’s classroom.
Implementation of the Common Core State Standards has just begun in many areas and has yet to start in others. The new standards face a number of unresolved issues and obstacles, including:
Indeed, some critics — and even a few concerned supporters — have advocated delays or revisions based on feedback from the classroom, before fully implementing and introducing new tests to get these challenges resolved.
The road to Common Core has many uncertain twists and turns ahead. Whatever the outcome of the debate over the new standards, the reality is they are already changing the workings in many of our nation’s schools. It's only a matter of time to see how well we adjust and how it changes the outcome of our children's educations.
Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you more
insights to help you help your child succeed.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.