Understanding the Common Core State Standards
Before the Common Core State Standards, individual states determined what skills students should master at each grade-level and how those skills should be assessed. Some states had rigorous standards and exams, while others had flawed systems in place, leading to students being passed to the next level without essential skills and eventually falling further and further behind their peers. The goal of the Common Core State Standards
is to bring some unity to the standards adopted by individual states and identify the key skills students need to master at each grade level. States are not required to adopt the Common Core State Standards, but as of August 2012, 45 of 50 states had chosen to adopt the standards and one of the five remaining states, Minnesota, adopted the language arts standards only.
College and Career Readiness
The main focus of the Common Core State Standards is to prepare students to enter the workforce or go on to seek a degree from a post-secondary institution after graduation. To do this, the standards focus on building critical thinking skills and other essential skills in the areas of language arts and math. The Common Core State Standards are not about memorizing and regurgitating facts or studying for a test and instantly forgetting the material. Through the standards and objectives, students continually build upon their skills and develop a thorough understanding of the subject matter and its implications in a global world.
Language Arts Standards Overview
With the new language arts standards, students develop critical thinking skills through interpretation, analysis and evaluation. Students are encouraged to read a diverse selection of texts, including an equal mix of fiction and non-fiction texts, at every grade level. During and after reading texts, the standards have students engage discussions related to the texts and form and support arguments based on those texts. They are also encouraged to write informative and persuasive pieces.
However, the biggest focus in the language arts standards actually takes place outside of the language arts classroom. Included in the language arts standards
are a section on Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects. This section contains reading and writing standards geared toward other content areas and has teachers incorporate key skills as students read and write discipline-specific content. The majority of texts students read and the writing they do, especially as they enter the workforce or post-secondary education will not be the novels and creative stories typically associated with an English class.
Math Standards OverviewThe math standards
that are part of the Common Core State Standards focus on two points: building a foundation of skills and developing a conceptual understanding of mathematics. In kindergarten through fifth grade, students focus more on building basic skills and procedures, such as multiplication and division, fractions, negative numbers and common equations. The goal is to prepare all students to take algebra at the 8th grade level and then begin to apply the foundational skills as they learn how to think mathematically and solve real-world problems.
Developing an Understanding
The overall goal of the Common Core State Standards
is to get students to become independent thinkers and problem-solvers. With a base of key skills and the ability to apply those skills to a variety of situations, students will be prepared for whatever path they take after graduation. While the standards recognize there are certain facts and other pieces of information students need to know, they emphasize making meaning from that information over simple memorization and recitation.