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5 things you don't know about the Common Core

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2015 10:46 AM

Because the Common Core State Standards are now fully implemented, you've been hearing about them for years and probably know all the basics. For example, you can tell anyone who asks that the Common Core is a set of benchmarks, not a curriculum. You know the Standards cover English/language arts and math. You're even counting the days until spring standardized testing occurs. However, there may be some Common Core facts you've missed. Here's a list of things you may not have known about the Common Core, but should:

1. It was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Many people believe Common Core development was an effort made by the federal government, but that's not the case. In fact, the CCSS was developed by a group composed of private organizations, including the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Achieve, Inc. What's more, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the creation of the CCSS. According to the Washington Post, the foundation spent about $200 million to fund the project and help spread the word.

2. Less literature, but it's still important
The Common Core has students read 70 percent nonfiction texts by the time they reach high school, so they'll consume less literature than past standards mandated. This is because most students will go on to consume nonfiction, analytical texts in college and careers. Although the Standards focus on developing students' reasoning skills by providing nonfiction texts, students will still read literature. In fact, high school students must be familiar with classic texts from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. They must also read at least one Shakespeare play. All that is in regular English courses - students who also take a literature course will focus on literature in that class.

3. The Standards are internationally benchmarked
Recent reports have shown that the U.S. is behind most other countries in literacy and math, which highlights our need to improve educational practices. With that in mind, the Common Core developers looked at educational standards from top-performing countries to help develop the CCSS here in the states. Ideally, the Common Core will help students improve their test scores and the nation's international rank. To learn more about the international benchmarks and how they impacted Standards development, take a look at the appendix of the CCSS.

4. The CCSS are not listed in Race to the Top
Race to the Top is a federal grant program that rewards states that adopt college- and career-readiness standards. Many people have taken this to mean that states have to adopt the CCSS in order to get the grants. However, this is only partly true. In actuality, states can adopt any college- and career-readiness standards they want to qualify, whether they use the Common Core or devise their own standards. The point of the Race to the Top program is to give money to states that improve their standards by focusing more on the skills students need to succeed in college and careers. 

5. Common Core states can use any aligned assessment
While consortiums of states created two separate and prevailing assessments aligned with the Common Core, not all states chose to participate. Instead, some developed their own aligned assessments. The CCSS only says that states have to test students on Common Core knowledge, not that they have to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

The Common Core may be fully implemented, but there's always more you can learn. Continue getting to know the facts of the CCSS.