Connecting school learning to the future possibilities for each student is an important focus of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In fact, the CCSS originated when the National Governors Association and state education commissioners identified what it means for students to graduate from high school ready for college and career in the 21st century.
Forty-six states have adopted the CCSS. California adopted them in 2010.
Clear learning targets, or standards, are set for each grade level. These targets are internationally benchmarked to ensure that students are globally competitive. However, decisions about curriculum and instruction still remain with each district. Collaboration among educators encourages consistency and innovation.
Key features in English language arts include the following: literacy across all disciplines; evidence used to support ideas in writing, reading and speaking; and emphasis on literary and informational texts.
In mathematics, key components include the following: application of mathematics concepts to real world and new applications; and incorporation of eight mathematical practices to develop 21st century thinking.
To assess student progress on the CCSS, a new system is in place, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). In California, it is named the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). For the first time, students use computers to take the assessment. Test items require more than a bubble-in response. Students write, manipulate text, graph, create tables and complete other tasks to demonstrate their learning. In 2014, students take the CAASPP as a field test to “test the test.”
Both educators and students desire to be ready for the challenges of the 21st century. The CCSS help guide the way to California’s vision: “All California students of the 21st century will attain the highest level of academic knowledge, applied learning and performance skills to ensure fulfilling personal lives and careers and contribute to civic and economic progress in our diverse and changing democratic society.”