Skip to main content

A look at California's additions to the Common Core

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2015 11:18 AM

Although California decided to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2010, this is the first school year (2014-2015) in which the Core-aligned assessments have been fully implemented. That means that all California students are taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium's test this spring to evaluate their math and English/language arts skills. But the California Common Core State Standards might look a little different than those in other areas of the country. When the state decided to adopt the CCSS, it did so while also making additions to the math, reading, writing and other skills listed, as well as defining Standards in other subjects that aren't a part of a Common Core curriculum. These additions are meant to increase the rigor of California schools and ensure all students throughout the state are being taught some specific subject matter that isn't a part of the general CCSS. Here are some of the additions made by California to its State Standards:

Math and ELA
Some of the key additions by California to the State Standards are made within the math and ELA guidelines already laid out by the Common Core. According to the California Board of Education, these additions were necessary in order to raise the Standards of the Common Core to California's already rigorous educational expectations. The state made additions within each grade level and subject to specify or add to information that teachers and school districts should already be incorporating into their curricula.

For instance, whereas in Common Core algebra and other mathematics Standards, the concept of "absolute value" isn't mentioned, it's specifically included by California. Understanding absolute value can increase a student's fluency in mathematic?al operations and concepts across several grade levels. Likewise, within the Standards for algebra II, California adds several expectations regarding students' understanding of logarithms and their functions. And in ELA, California's expectations are raised as well. For instance, the state's Standards specify that reading instruction in grades 6 through 12 should include "works by writers representing a broad range of literary periods and cultures." A small change, but ideally, this will ensure teachers and school districts are developing diverse curricula that teaches a wide range of subject matter.

Science, history and social science
The Common Core State Standards does emphasize some reading and writing skills that are expected of 6th- through 12th-grade students within the subjects of science and history. For instance, middle and high schoolers should be able to read and comprehend instructional texts in these subjects independently. However, the California State Board of Education has its own standards in these subjects as well.

The state expects students of history and social sciences classes to be able to understand history, acquire in-depth knowledge of it, and be able to use critical thinking to make connections between the past and present. Science standards dictate that students should learn a number of different subjects across grade levels, with an overall goal of understanding how experimental inquiry works and what its processes are. 

Health and arts
Along with core subject matter standards, California also requires each school in the state to provide instruction on health and the arts. This means schools should have classes about individual, family and community health, physical education, music, performing arts and visual arts. Though individual districts, schools and teachers can determine exactly how much of each of these subjects is taught, the California Education Code requires their implementation in every school.

California has long been a proponent of state-wide educational standards, and its adoption and implementation of the Common Core is another step toward creating rigorous curricula that will ensure California students are successful in colleges and careers. But the state's additions to the Common Core also make sure students are well-rounded with key life and academic skills that will help them be even more successful in the future.