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What Is The Common Core?

The words “common core” seem to be a very common term nowadays. It seems every grade has some sort of standard that they have to follow very strictly and these standards are very different from what the curriculum used to be a couple of years ago. Even though mass adoption of Common Core was a very recent event, Common Core was actually set in motion back in 2009 by the Council of Chief School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center).  

The CCSSO worked with teachers, administrators, university professors, representatives from testing companies, and other education experts to create a framework that educators across the country can use to effectively educate all students.

What Are They Trying To Solve?

According to lawmakers and business leaders, America tends to fall behind in their academic skills when compared to other countries in international tests. The idea behind the Common Core is that tougher standards will help bring American education ranking up to par with some of the other leading countries in the world. The US Education Department found that not only were American state standards low, there were a lot of variations on these low standards.

Now think about this in a real life example. You have two children from different states with low performing education standards, both in the same grade level. They both are placed in a high caliber critical thinking scenario with some mid level students and some high performing students. The logical outcome to this situation is that these low performing students will definitely be left behind. Right? Let’s not focus on the other students, only the low performing students. Do you think that both students did equally as bad? No. One of them definitely performed worse than the other. Not only are all students not learning at the same level, they aren’t even on the same page in regards to the skills they are learning.

This is why the Common Core standards were brought about: to bring the level of learning that happens in the classroom for all students up to the same level.

What Are The Common Core Standards?

The common core standards provide educators with a list of topics in each subject area for each grade level that must be covered and effectively taught to students every single year. 

The general list of these standards are:

English Language Arts:

  • Literature
  • Informational text
  • Foundational Skills (phonics, word recognition, fluency, etc.)
  • Writing
  • Speaking and Listening Standards
  • Language Standards (vocabulary, etc.)


  • Operations & Algebraic Thinking
  • Number & Operations in Base 10
  • Geometry

These mathematics topics are what students work towards mastering all the way from Kindergarten to the 12th Grade.

Why Were The State Standards Failing Before?

In the 1990s, states began writing their own standards for education after a 1983 report called “A Nation at Risk” which said American schools were rising in mediocrity. Then, in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act required states to test students’ mastery of those standards annually. Facing consequences for students’ poor standards, states started setting standards that were far too high compared to others. All this creates too much of a gap between the lowest performing students and the highest performing students. The Common Core standards are meant to minimize this chasm between the floor and the ceiling in student achievement.

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