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Understanding the Common Core

In 2010, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released their final Common Core State Standards — academic benchmarks intended to define the knowledge and skills that high school graduates will need in order to be successful in college and careers. NGA and CCSSO offered the standards to any state at no charge as long as it agreed to accept all of the standards and test students’ mastery of them within three years. However, there is no entity or process for enforcing this agreement and states are free to drop in or out at any time.

Four years later, more than 40 states and the District of Columbia are in the midst of implementing the Common Core in their public schools. Yet the public remains mostly unaware of the new standards or how they will affect schooling in their communities.

It’s for this reason, CPE has gathered a compendium of resources to help you understand what these new standards are— and aren’t— and what states are doing to ensure all students graduate college and career-ready. 

What’s new

On the Same Page 2.0: Effective Implementation of College- and Career-ready Standards Through Labor-Management Collaboration (pdf): New update to the collaboration guide for district labor-management teams as they undertake the work of implementing new college- and career-ready standards. This document was produced as part of national Labor-Management Conferences for which NSBA is a co-sponsor alongside AASA, AFT, CCSSO, Council of Great City Schools and the NEA.

Teaching Channel: Common Core videos: A library of short videos that show teachers working with students on Common Core-aligned lessons. These inspiring illustrations can be used to show teachers, parents, students and your communities what the Common Core will look like in practice.


More than 40 states have been preparing to assess students’ mastery of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) beginning 2014. Recently several states have had second thoughts and are bowing out of Common Core participation. For the rest, other questions remain: How close are districts to being ready? What kind of supports are states providing? What has yet to be put into place? Patte Barth provides the latest look at CCSS progress and its implications for districts at NSBA’s Annual Conference in in Nashville in 2015.

Click here to download the CCSS 2015 Annual Conference Presentation (PDF) directly from the Center for Public Education.
The Center for Public Education's director, Patte Barth, provided an overview and updates to progress on Common Core implementation and how states and districts are preparing at NSBA’s annual conference April 2012. The Center was joined by colleagues from Kentucky School Boards Association on March 6, 2012 to conduct a webinar on what you need to know about implementing the Common Core standards at the state and district levels. 

The Common Core State Standards: Focus for school board members, March 6, 2012. (Click to download the PPT)


Diploma Requirements 'Out of Sync' With Common Core, Report Says, Education Week, June 12, 2013 — CPE study Out of Sync reported on (http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/out-sync).

Study: Math Requirements Not Aligned With Common Core in Many States, Washington Post, June 12, 2013 — CPE study Out of Sync reported on (http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/out-sync).

The Curious Case of Algebra II, American School Board Journal, September 2013. Algebra II has become the proxy math for both college- and career-readiness, but that trend may be reversing, as Patte Barth finds.

Common Core Myths, Huffington Post, August 8, 2013 — Linda Rosen, executive director of Change the Equation, which CPE collaborated with to produce Out of Sync, writes about some of the misperceptions about the Common Core State Standards.

The Common Core Standards: Truths, Untruths and Ambiguities, Huffington Post, April 25, 2013 — Patte Barth.

Common Core Backlash: Center for Public Education Director Patte Barth explores some criticisms of the Common Core in the April 2013 issue of American School Board Journal (pdf).

Governing to the Core: A series of three briefs by the California School Boards Association with practical guidance for school boards on implementing the Common Core state standards: 

The Power of Math:
Patte Barth highlights the differences between the Common Core math standards and current practice in the January 2013 issue of American School Board Journal (pdf).

CABE raises questions about costs of Common Core:  article by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education about potential costs of CCSS implementation.(Click to download the PDF)

Coming together to raise achievement: report by Education Testing Service’s Center for K-12 Assessment and Performance Management about what to look for in the new CCSS assessments. (Click to download the PDF)

  • Supporting ELLs in Mathematics
    Stanford University’s Understanding Language initiative has developed a set of open-source instructional materials in mathematics for ELL teachers to use with their students.
  • PARCC sample items
    The PARCC assessment consortium has released its first sample items for mathematics and English language arts. A good first peek at what to expect.
  • Data First Training: College and Career Readiness
    Common Core Standards place a big emphasis on getting students college and career ready. Here’s a video that the Center for Public Education produced, through its Data First initiative, on what exactly college and career readiness means.
  • Parents’ Guides to Student Success, National PTA
    These PTA-produced guides provide an overview of what students will learn at each grade level under the Common Core standards, along with tips for helping them at home. The colorful, two-page guides can be downloaded and distributed for free.
  • Out of Sync: Many Common Core states have yet to define a Common Core-worthy diploma
    Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted rigorous Common Core State Standards for what their K-12 public school students should know and be able to do in mathematics and English Language Arts. Yet most of these states have yet to take a critical step towards making those standards a reality: they do not require high school graduates to complete the math classes that typically cover the content described in the new standards.
  • Tools for the Common Core standards:
    a blog by Bill McCallum, lead author of the CCSS mathematics standards. A good place to stay up to date on progress, download tools as they come available, and engage in conversations with other professionals.
  • The Illustrative Mathematics Project:
    still under construction at this writing, this website will “illustrate the range and types of mathematical work that students will experience in a faithful implementation of the Common Core State Standards, and by publishing other tools that support implementation of the standards.”
  • Rubrics for aligning Open Educational Resources (OER) to CCSS.
    Rubrics designed “to help states, districts, teachers, and other users determine the degree of alignment of OERs to the Common Core State Standards, and to determine aspects of quality of OERs.” The eight rubrics address such areas as content quality, usefulness of materials, assessments, practice exercise, and others. Achieve, Inc.
  • Achievethecore.org
    This website was created to “provide free, high-quality resources to educators now doing the hard work of implementing these higher standards.” If nothing else, check out their “steal these tools.” The site is maintained by the nonprofit Student Achievement Partners, which boasts some common core authors on its team.

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