Resources for Understanding the Common Core State Standards
An educator's guide to websites, organizations, articles, and other resources looking at the new system of standards and how they will be assessed.
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Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of dense information out there about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)? You're not alone. Here's Edutopia's guide to resources that will help you make sense of the initiative and join the conversation.
Common Core State Standards Initiative
First, go straight to the source. The Common Core State Standards Initiative website is comprehensive and well-organized. You can download PDFs of the English Language Arts Standards and the Mathematics Standards, see an interactive map of which states have adopted the standards, read a list of myths about the standards, and check out a FAQ that addresses many questions about them. You can also sign up to get a bi-weekly newsletter with Common Core updates from the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Videos on the Common Core
If you're looking for short, accessible videos to explain the Common Core Standards, check out Hunt Institute's YouTube channel. There you will find more than 30 videos, from brief animated overviews to details on the standards' specifics, to Spanish translations. "Shaping rigorous, world-class education standards" is one of the Hunt Institute's key initiatives, so it has done great work making the Common Core understandable. The institute even wrote a Video Vignette User Guide (PDF), which helps break down the content of the videos. The Teaching Channel also offers more than 100 great videos about the Common Core, from broad overviews to lesson ideas for specific standards.
ASCD's Common Core Resources
ASCD received a $3 million grant from the Gates Foundation to support implementation of Common Core State Standards over a three-year period, and it has become an endorsing partner in the initiative. ASCD has developed a Common Core resource page with a wealth of information, and created a website called EduCore: Tools for Teaching the Common Core. The organization even has a twice-monthly, topic-based newsletter, Core Connection, that you can subscribe to by filling out a brief survey. And there's a hashtag to follow on Twitter at #ASCDcore.
Common Core Toolkit from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills
Among all the great resources offered by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), you can find the Common Core Toolkit, a 48-page guide available as a free PDF download or in hard copy for a nominal fee. This resource helps map the CCSS to P21's comprehensive Framework for 21st Century Skills. It includes lesson vignettes to show what such alignment looks like in action, resources and links for states and districts working to put the standards into place, and information about assessment.
Achieving the Common Core
As an independent, non-profit education-reform organization, Achieve has a mission of supporting standards-based education reform, and it offers both content and policy resources. The best place to start is the Achieving the Common Core page, where you will find a PowerPoint presentation, fact sheets, side-by-side comparisons of the CCSS and other respected benchmarks, videos, and lesson plans. The "On the Road to Implementation" guide is useful and well-organized, and Achieve has also developed a Common Core Comparison Tool to support states as they compare their existing standards with the CCSS (login required).
Share My Lesson Common Core Information Center
Ready to start thinking about classroom implementation? Share My Lesson is a fantastic free platform where teachers can exchange lesson plans and ideas, developed by the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect. Their Common Core State Standards information center is a hub for lesson plans and advice. The Share My Lesson team did the legwork of digging through more than 250,000 user-uploaded and -rated resources on the site to find the most relevant ones for teaching with the Common Core Standards -- check out the K - 8 Math Index and the 6 - 12 English Language Arts Index for lessons mapped to specific standards. They also host a Common Core Forum so you can join the discussion.
LearnZillion Common Core Lesson Plans
Another place to look for high-quality teacher-produced lesson plans that align to the CCSS is LearnZillion, a learning platform that combines video lessons, assessments, and progress reporting -- it's like the Khan Academy of Common Core. In addition to sortable Math and ELA video lessons, they offer a handy Common Core navigator. This organization has a great backstory -- started by a public school in Washington D.C. as a home-grown repository for screencast lessons made by their teachers, they caught the attention of edtech funders and ended up with seed money to take their idea to a national level. Watch a video or read a blog and hear a podcast from Marketplace about LearnZillion.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)
As one of the two state-led collaboratives developing new assessments that align with the Common Core Standards, PARCC received an $186 million Race to the Top grant. You will find a solid implementation page on its website with guides, webinars, workbooks, and more resources for the transition period. PARCC also offers a page called In the Classroom which is designed specifically for teachers in the trenches. PARCC is a consortium of 24 states, and its assessments will be ready for states to administer for the 2014-15 school year.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
The other group that received a comparable sum in federal funding to create next-generation K-12 assessments is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Since we first published this article, Smarter Balanced launched a permanent website with a much heartier resource page, with various articles and links, and information about Race to the Top. Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium consists of twenty-two governing and five advisory states, and it's on a time line that's similar to PARCC's.
Educational Testing Service's Center for K-12 Assessment and Performance Management
Educational Testing Service (ETS) is now working with Smarter Balanced and PARCC on the new systems of assessment through its Center for K-12 Assessment and Performance Management. The K-12 center has created graphic illustrations to explain each of the two systems. (Download the PDF for PARCC or the PDF for Smarter Balanced.) The center also publishes webinars, reports, PowerPoint presentations, and a PDF guide on its work with PARCC and SBAC. You can get an overview on the Common State Assessments page.
Research Reports by the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC)
Two interesting studies about Common Core can be found through EPIC. "Lining Up: The Relationship Between the Common Core State Standards and Five Sets of Comparison Standards" (PDF) compares the Common Core to existing standards, including standards from California, Texas, and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, among others. For "Reaching the Goal: The Applicability and Importance of the Common Core State Standards to College and Career Readiness," (PDF) EPIC interviewed college instructors about how closely the standards match their courses. You can download a variety of PDFs, including the Lining Up executive summary and the Reaching the Goal executive summary, and watch webinars for both studies.
Articles About the Common Core
You can find a variety of great articles online that discuss the Common Core and list additional resources. Here are just a few:
- "For Libraries, the Common Core Presents Extraordinary Opportunity," by Andrew Albanese, Publisher's Weekly, February 2013
- "ReThinking Literacy: Reading in the Common Core Era," Education Week, November 2012
- "The Promise of the Common Core," by Lissa Pijanowski, EdNET Insight, November 2011
- "Standards: A Critical Need for K-16 Collaboration," by Brad C. Phillips and Bruce Vandal, Education Week, November 2011
- "Assessment and the Common Core State Standards: Let's Stay on Top of It!" by J. Michael Shaughnessy, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), June 2011