Common Core State Standards


Common Core in less than 100 words

Endorsed by the University of California, the California State University system and California Community Colleges, the Common Core State Standards outline what students should know and be able to do in reading and mathematics from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

These standards are aligned with the knowledge and skills deemed critical for college and career success, are benchmarked to the standards of the world’s top-performing countries and mark the first time that states have shared a common set of expectations for the nation’s K-12 students.

To explore further, and to learn how the Common Core was developed, click here.


The classroom in the Common Core era

With the implementation of Common Core, hands-on activities and collaborative exercises will be much more prevalent, and English students will see a shift toward nonfiction texts. Media skills will be integrated into everyday lessons, writing will be shared with outside audiences and next-generation assessments will evaluate higher order processes.

Math classes will teach fewer concepts, but they will reach new depths in exploring those concepts. Students will be challenged with more real-world applications and fewer theoretical equations, and there will be a greater emphasis on learning the process rather than merely providing the correct answer.


Continuous Improvement and the Common Core

The Irvine Unified School District's instructional mission is outlined in a document known as the Continuous Improvement Efforts, which describes guiding principles for IUSD educators, practices that promote those principles and essential capacities for students.

Common Core logoThough Irvine Unified's Continuous Improvement Efforts predate the Common Core, the new standards reinforce our essential capacities and promote our ability to cultivate them by encouraging deeper conceptual understanding while anchoring student learning through writing, speaking, listening and language.

To cite just one example, one of the 10 College and Career Anchor Standards for the Common Core states that students will “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or text, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” Similarly, IUSD’s Essential Capacities call for students to “Articulate a position persuasively and support it with evidence.”

If you review IUSD’s Continuous Improvement Efforts alongside the new standards, you will see a number of similarities, and that’s why we are eager to embrace Common Core – it's the direction we were already heading. Implementing these standards strengthens our efforts to bring focus and clarity to instruction while improving our students’ ability to engage with rigorous content and demonstrate capacities that are critical for success in the 21st Century.


Assessments under the Common Core

In October 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to replace the state’s old standardized testing system with more modern, computer-based assessments aligned with the Common Core standards.

Authored by Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla, D-Concord, the law directed school districts to begin transitioning to the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress - or CAASPP – assessments, which are slated to be administered during the 2014-15 school year. The new exams, developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, will feature computer-adaptive technology that can adjust questions based on previous right or wrong answers, providing much more precise feedback to indicate which skills and content areas have been mastered. Like the Common Core itself, the assessments will focus more on critical-thinking, reasoning and problem-solving. For more information, refer to the IUSD Statewide Testing page.


More facts about the Common Core

Though there are a number of online resources with helpful information about the Common Core – several are listed below – some rumors and myths persist. Here are a few facts to keep in mind:


States developed these standards. The nation’s governors and state education commissioners spearheaded Common Core development to provide clear and consistent understanding of the reading and math knowledge and skills that students will need as they pursue lifelong learning and success in their careers. Working through their representative organizations – the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers – state leaders collaborated with educators, subject matter experts and researchers to write and review the standards. The federal government was not involved with the development of the Common Core standards.

The federal government did not require states to adopt the standards. In fact, four states – Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia – have chosen not to adopt the standards in either subject, and Minnesota has adopted the English language arts standards but not the math standards. However, the federal government’s Race to the Top grant competition incentivized states to adopt college and career readiness standards, such as Common Core, by providing state applicants with additional points for doing so. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education required states to adopt either the Common Core standards or another set of reading and math college- and career-ready standards approved by its network of higher education institutions.

The standards are not a curriculum. Standards are targets for what students should know and be able to do. Curricula are the instructional plans and strategies that educators use to help their students reach those expectations. The CCSS are a set of shared goals for the knowledge and skills students should possess in English language arts and mathematics to be proficient in those subjects. As such, districts and schools should use the standards as a basis for developing their own curricula by designing course content, choosing appropriate instructional strategies, developing learning activities, continuously gauging student understanding, and adjusting instruction accordingly.

California’s four systems of higher education have endorsed the Common Core standards. The University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities are engaging in a comprehensive, coordinated approach for implementation to link the K-12 system with higher education on standards, assessments and teacher training.

Common Core does not relinquish local control. School boards remain responsible for setting their own visions and executing their own unique approaches for instruction and curriculum. In addition, districts and schools will continue to choose their own textbooks and instructional materials, provide teachers with tailored professional development and design supports and interventions to help students reach proficiency. School districts have always abided by state-approved education standards. At the same time, districts have maintained the flexibility and responsibility to implement the state-approved standards in a manner that reflects the needs of their communities. Even with the implementation of Common Core, educators and local communities will continue to make decisions about what happens in their districts, schools and classrooms.


Who supports the Common Core standards?

  • University of California

  • California State University

  • California Community Colleges

  • Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities

  • California School Boards Association (CSBA)

  • Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)

  • California Teachers Association (CTA)

  • California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA)

  • California Parent Teacher Association (PTA)


Where to find additional information