Posted in Accountability, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Primer Series

Primer Series: Common Core State Standards

If you have followed education-related news and discussions lately, you have more than likely heard about the Common Core State Standards. Essentially, it is an education reform initiative that has been spearheaded with the goal of aligning the curricula of all states across the nation. The basic idea is that it would be useful and beneficial for education in this country if all students had the same (or very similar) educational expectations, particularly as related to required skill sets. We’d like to spend some time talking about the Common Core State Standards (referred to going forward as simply “Common Core” for the sake of simplicity), since it is an important topic not only for CSD but for schools in almost every state in the country.

Common Core—which will result in a number of significant changes in curriculum, instruction, and assessment—will ultimately replace our current statewide assessment, the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). Ideally, the new standards will be universally adopted by all fifty states, but whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen. Currently, the Common Core has been formally adopted by forty-seven states in the union, Vermont being among them. Using the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), Vermont will assess Common Core, which must be fully implemented by the spring of 2015.

The scope of this task is vast, and it has far-reaching implications for the way we approach education going forward. As such, regional curriculum coordinators and superintendents in Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties are collaborating to learn about Common Core, developing and planning for the changes in curriculum that Common Core will necessitate.

Specifically, educators must comprehend the standards in order to develop the changes in curriculum and instruction, and they must also examine the assessment in order to understand the ways in which they must prepare the students for it by 2015. The local curricula must be revised in order to reflect the new standards, instructional strategies will need to be developed, and our teachers must be trained in those new instructional strategies. In addition to all of that, our community members need to be informed about the changes and about what the new educational expectations will be.

As we said, the scope of this task is vast.

As for some of the nuts and bolts of what will change as the result of Common Core, it is important to first note that Common Core is academically more rigorous and requires more critical thinking from students.

For a summary of key changes to the standards for English Language Arts (ELA), including reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and media and technology, click here. To put it succinctly, however, Common Core expects ELA skills to fully integrate with all other areas of study, including those in the sciences and in technical areas.

And for a summary of key changes to the standards in mathematics, click here. At its essence, Common Core spells out specific areas and concepts upon which students should focus through grade 5, after which time, the expectation is that students will expand upon those foundational skills to learn and understand increasingly complex material.

The standards for social studies and science are currently in development.

Suffice it to say that, similar to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Common Core will have a resounding impact upon the ways in which our educators formulate and present material to our students going forward, and preparing for this initiative is a monumental undertaking.

For more information about Common Core, please contact Gwen Carmolli, CSD’s director of curriculum and instruction, at

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