Information Age Education
   Issue Number 105
January, 2013   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by Dave Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education project. See and the end of this newsletter. All back issues of this newsletter are available free online at

Common Core State Standards
Part 6: A General Overview

David Ghoogasian
Educational Consultant/Trainer; School Improvement Facilitator
The Lyceum

This is the sixth IAE Newsletter in a sequence that addresses various issues related to the Common Core State Standards. All back issues of the IAE Newsletter are available free at

This article provides a general overview of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The website includes complete specific grade level emphases, and the other websites in the Reference section below add additional useful information.

The CCSS is often mistaken as an initiative of the federal government, but the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) began the movement, with input from K-12 educators. In the previous system of individual state standards, test results in one state could have identified certain students as being proficient in a tested area. The students could subsequently move to another state and be categorized there as being below proficiency in that area. Many felt that this system of differential state standards probably needed to be changed, if standardized tests were going to be continually used to determine K-12 subject proficiency.

Those involved in the CCSS initiative examined college levels of rigor and complexity, and found significant discrepancies compared to high school expectations. The CCSS groups then sought to insure that students gradually worked up to expected collegiate beginning levels. Further, the amount and complexity of information that is increasing at a rate we never before experienced also suggested that K-12 students must go far beyond merely accumulating knowledge. They also must be challenged to think critically with higher-order thinking skills that emphasize depth, complexity, and application.

According to the CCSS Initiative:

As specified by CCSSO and NGA, the Standards are (1) research and evidence based, (2) aligned with college and work expectations, (3) rigorous, and (4) internationally benchmarked. A particular standard was included in the document only when the best available evidence indicated that its mastery was essential for college and career readiness in a twenty-first-century, globally competitive society. The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly. (CCSS 2010, p. 3.)

Focus and Timeline

The CCSS released the College and Career Readiness Standards in the summer of 2009, followed by the June 2010 Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. The Next Generation Science Standards were opened for comment on January 8, 2013. See CCSS standards for History are still a work in progress. Assessments should be in place for the 2014-2015 academic year, and materials should be approved by 2016.

The College and Career Readiness anchor standards are consistent, broad-based expectations infused into all grade levels and subject areas. These emphasize skills considered necessary in both college and work environments.

Attention to 21st century skills is an important factor in the new CCSS. Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity are among the skills required to be successful in the world of the 21st century.

The CCSS for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects have three main sections. Those for K-5 are comprehensive, while those for 6-12 are divided into an English Language Arts (ELA) section and a section each for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. These are organized into strands, with K-5 and 6-12 ELA emphasizing Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language, and with 6-12 history/social studies, science, and technical subjects emphasizing Reading and Writing. Each strand has a strand-specific set of College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards. Each broad CCR anchor standard has an accompanying grade-specific standard, which translates into grade-appropriate expectations.

It is noteworthy that these literacy skills should also be applied outside the area of English Language Arts. The emphasis here is on literacy and this should not be confused with standards for the content in these areas. In a move toward shared responsibility, teachers outside of the formal arena of English Language Arts must now also be responsible for literacy. Dealing with text takes on an increasingly important role, with a transitional emphasis in reading toward informational text and in writing toward argument and informational/explanatory text. Three appendices provide further information, clarification, and detail.

The CCSS for Mathematics are organized into domains, clusters, and standards that are intended to move away from the broad and shallow approach of current curricula to an emphasis on mastery of topics through procedural fluency and conceptual understanding. K-8 standards are organized by grade level and high school standards are organized within six conceptual categories: Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Modeling, Geometry, and Statistics and Probability. There is an increased focus of content within grade levels, and an increased coherence of content from grade-to-grade. A significant additional change is that, in addition to the standards for content, there are also standards for mathematical practice, emphasizing factors such as making sense of problems and perseverance in solving them, abstract and quantitative reasoning, mathematical modeling, using appropriate tools strategically, attending to precision, looking for and making sense of structure, and looking for and expressing regularity in repeated reasoning.


Formal assessments using the CCSS are scheduled to begin with the 2014-2015 academic year. Two different groups have been charged with the task of creating these assessments: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC; for roughly half of the states and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC; for the rest. Part of the assessments will be technology-administered and will include free-response items. There will be options for formative assessments to be administered at times throughout the year. The computer-based portion of the SBAC assessment will be adaptive; students who answer a question correctly will get more challenging questions, and those who answer incorrectly will get simpler subsequent questions.

A paper and pencil version of the test should be available for a period of time. There is speculation and discussion that students and schools using this version should perhaps be penalized by one percentile point.
The assessments will comprise the following types of items: Selected Response Items (SR), Constructed Response Items (CR), Technology Enhanced Items/Tasks (TE), and Performance Tasks (PT).
  • Selected Response refers to what is commonly called multiple choice.

  • The more complex Constructed Response requires students to develop personal answers without suggested choices. Students produce a text or numerical response in order to gather evidence about their knowledge/understanding of a given assessment target.

  • Technology Enhanced Items/Tasks use computer-based administration to assess a deeper understanding of content and skills than would otherwise be possible with traditional item types. Technology enhanced items use technology to collect evidence through a non-traditional response type, such as editing text or drawing an object.

  • Performance Tasks are intended to measure a student’s ability to integrate knowledge and skills across multiple standards—a key component of college and career readiness. Performance tasks measure such capabilities as depth of understanding, research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with selected or constructed response items.
  • English Language Arts – Performance Tasks for English Language Arts will focus on reading, writing, speaking and listening, and research claims. They measure capacities such as depth of understanding, interpretive and analytical ability, basic recall, synthesis, and research.

  • Mathematics – Performance Tasks for Math will integrate knowledge and skills across multiple claims, measure capacities such as depth of understanding, research skills, and/or complex analysis with relevant evidence. These tasks require student-initiated planning, management of information/data and ideas, and/or interaction with other materials. They will also reflect real-world task and/or scenario-based problems, allow for multiple approaches, represent content that is relevant and meaningful to students, allow for demonstration of important knowledge and skills, require scoring that focuses on the essence of the claim(s) for which the task was written, and seem feasible for the school/classroom environment. Mathematical modeling and application are emphasized.
In the development of these standards, some developers were understandably concerned about existing excess standardization, and others felt that states needed to have some leeway to include information that could be state specific. Every state, therefore, was allowed to supplement the national CCSS by up to 15%.

In many ways, the CCSS and their implementation are a work in progress and will evolve as more evidence and information become available. According to the CCSS initiative:

These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of standards based reforms. It is time to recognize that standards are not just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep. (CCSS. 2010, p. 5.)


Suggestion: Please visit the website of your respective State Department of Education.

Achieve. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from

College and Career Readiness. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from

Common Core State Standards Initiative. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from

Next Generation Science. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from http://

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Retrieved 1/13/2013 from

David Ghoogasian

David Ghoogasian, educational consultant/trainer and school improvement facilitator, has a rich background in education, which includes teaching, counseling, administration, and professional development. A former school principal, Mr. Ghoogasian trains and teaches parents, students, and educators with backgrounds ranging from early childhood education through college and university instruction. His philosophical approach and work weave together important findings in education, psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, behavioral science, communication, other relevant disciplines, and experience. He teaches and trains through his own company, The Lyceum, as well as through the University of California, Riverside, Irvine, and San Diego education extension programs.

Mr. Ghoogasian is a member of the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) and Professional Teaching certificate program advisory boards at UCI Extension. He has served on visiting committees for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Schools and has been a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and the California Association for the Gifted (CAG).


Reader Comments

We are using the Disqus commenting system to facilitate comments and discussions pertaining to this newsletter. To use Disqus, please click the Login link below and sign in. If you have questions about how to use Disqus, please refer to this help page.
Readers may also send comments via email directly to

About Information Age Education, Inc.

Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. Current IAE activities include a Wiki with address, a Website containing free books and articles at, a Blog at, and the free newsletter you are now reading.

For a free subscription to this twice a month newsletter and to see back issues, go to You can change your address or cancel your subscription by clicking on the “Manage your Subscription” link at the bottom of this message.