Common Core State Standards on the brain

Yesterday I laboriously got through a dense but interesting research paper “Common Core Standards:  The New U.S. Intended Curriculum” by Andrew Porter, Jennifer McMaken, Jun Hwang, and Rui Yang.  The paper compares the Common Core (CC) with current state standards and assessments and with standards in top-performing countries.  The paper highlights several expected benefits of the CC:

  • Shared expectations – with an emphasis on “the content of the intended curriculum” and not on how the content is to be taught.
  • Focus – the hope is that with the CC, less topics are required to capture 80% of the total content.  However, after analysis, the researchers found that the CC standards are “…somewhat more focused in mathematics but not in ELAR.” 
  • Efficiency – states don’t need to develop their own standards, assessments, and curriculum guides.  (Sounds like a great argument but the reality is that states have already done all of this.)
  • Quality of assessments – having one or two aligned assessments (SMARTER Balanced and PARCC) make it possible to offer assessments electronically which allows them to be adaptive and more engaging (using animations, etc.).

The paper emphasizes that with the CC there is a shift towards higher levels of cognitive demand, with a stronger shift occurring in ELA than in math.  The researchers raise an interesting question, “If there is a single set of content standards across states, will there be more opportunity and more motivation to build curriculum materials that are carefully aligned?”  No doubt, we at IAAK, will be following this topic very closely. 

While the paper is worth a read, I would suggest skimming it and spending more time on the tables and visuals.

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