Common Core Learning Standards

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is coordinated by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The common core state standards were released in draft form in 2009. The standards are internationally benchmarked and backed by evidence showing that students' mastery of them leads to preparedness for higher education and the workforce. The initiative defines college and career readiness as the ability "to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce-training programs" (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010).

The NGA and the CCSSO say the standards were developed with input from teachers, school administrators, and experts. The groups also received nearly 10,000 comments providing insight that shaped the final drafts of the English language arts and mathematics standards released in June 2010.

In a statement on the standards, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2010) says, "The [common core standards] will help teachers, students and parents know what is needed for students to succeed in college and careers, and will enable states, school districts and teachers to more effectively collaborate to accelerate learning and close achievement gaps nationwide."

According to the common core initiative's website (2010), the common core standards

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;

  • Are clear, understandable, and consistent;

  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;

  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;

  • Are informed by other top-performing countries so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and

  • Are evidence-based.

Curriculum issues pose one of the biggest unknowns for educators, with some advocating for a stronger curricular framework, curriculum guides, or just more guidance, while others think the standards should stand alone, leaving educators to make appropriate curricular decisions for their students.

The common core standards are decidedly not a curriculum, say the NGA and CCSSO. "They are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others will decide how the standards are to be met. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms," states the common core initiative Web site (2010).

Furthermore, although standards in science and social science are being considered, the common core standards currently address only English language arts and mathematics. Effectively integrating all content areas into instruction is essential for students to receive a comprehensive education.