Education Trends

Resources for Understanding the Common Core State Standards

Explore an educator’s guide to websites, organizations, articles, and other resources looking at the new system of standards and how they will be assessed.

November 9, 2011 Updated July 1, 2015

Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of dense, conflicting information out there about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)? You're not alone. Connecting with other educators is often a great way to uncover useful CCSS information, tools, and resources. Consider sharing your voice in online communities: on Twitter (#CCSS or #CommonCore), or Pinterest (Edutopia's Common Core pinboard is one place to start). If you'd like even more help making sense of the initiative, here's Edutopia's guide to other organizations that offer valuable resources.

The Debate

Debate and controversy continue over the CCSS and associated changes to assessments. Some supporters argue a common set of rigorous national standards will transform American education, prepare students for college and careers, and allow our nation to maintain international competitiveness. Some opponents assert the standards represent a flawed, untested, “one-size-fits-all” approach -- an overreach into matters best left up to local control. Lawmakers in several states have introduced bills revisiting the decision to adopt the CCSS in the first place. In 2013, the general public was mostly left out of this debate; however, more recent polls have found that public awareness of the standards has grown. For more about two 2014 polls and what they suggested about shifts in public awareness and opinion, read A Tale of Two Polls, from NPR.

With rumors about the CCSS swirling, it can be difficult to sort out fact from fiction. This article from Common Sense Media includes links to resources that can help you understand the supporting and opposing arguments. Smithsonian’s What to Make of the Debate Over Common Core, by Stephen Sawchuk, is another good read. Several CCSS endorsers have put effort into debunking myths—ASCD Policy Points: Common Core State Standards, Myths and Facts is one of those efforts. For more updates from around the nation as events take place, take a look at ASCD’s Core Connection Newsletter and Education Week’s ongoing Common Standards coverage. Finally, The Hechinger Report's in-depth coverage of CCSS implementation is a good source of stories from the trenches and more detailed information about CCSS intricacies and controversies.

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. A Teachers Guide to the Common Core State Standards from the USC Rossier School of Education provides a survey of the standards and includes guidance on helping community members and parents, as well. You can also sign up for a a bi-weekly newsletter with Common Core updates from the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Videos on the Common Core

Teaching Channel offers more than 240 useful videos about Common Core implementation, from broad overviews to lesson ideas for specific standards. They've also developed additional videos and resources, including demonstrations of Common Core-aligned lessons, in partnership with leading nonprofits and teachers’ unions focused on implementing the Common Core. And if you're looking for short, accessible videos to explain the Common Core Standards to parents or colleagues, 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.

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 has a twice-monthly, topic-based newsletter, Core Connection (mentioned above), that you can subscribe to.

Common Core Toolkit from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning

Among all the great resources offered by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21), you can find the Common Core Toolkit, a 48-page guide 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 Learning. 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, nonprofit, 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 Toolkit for Evaluating the Alignment of Instructional and Assessment Materials.

Achieve the Core

Achieve the Core, an initiative of Student Achievement Partners and nonprofit founded by the lead writers of the Common Core, is a website that shares free, open-source resources to support Common Core implementation. Available resources include tools and resources that educators can use in ELA classrooms and mathematics classrooms, information about shifts in instruction related to the Common Core, and guidance and tools to help evaluate alignment of instruction, assessment, and materials to CCSS shifts. New for 2015, a Teaching the Core Video Library includes a collection of classroom videos and lesson materials intended to help K-12 educators align their lessons to the standards.

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 that 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. 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.

Khan Academy Practice Problems

Looking for resources to support math instruction? Khan Academy has created thousands of CCSS-aligned math problems, created and reviewed by math educators. Check out the Common Core map on their website to browse skills and related math exercises by grade and relevant standard. Adaptive software helps to identify gaps and show progress on each student's learning dashboard, and real-time tracking data is available to teachers.

BetterLesson Common Core Lesson Plans

In partnership with the National Education Association, BetterLesson launched a new website in January 2014, featuring over 10,000 CCSS-aligned lessons for math and ELA/literacy. Developed by over 130 current, experienced teachers for every grade level, the featured lessons include the teachers’ reflections and insights, student work examples, and an array of other supporting materials.

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 a $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 For Educators, designed specifically for teachers in the trenches. PARCC is a consortium of states, and 13 states are participating in administration of the PARCC tests during the 2014-15 school year.

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.

Center on Education Policy’s Compendium of Research on the Common Core State Standards

This compendium of 85 research studies from the Center on Education Policy (CEP) was last updated in February 2015 and includes summaries of studies across nine different topic areas. The full compendium is available for download; each of the topic areas is also available to download separately.

Research File: Common Core State Standards by the American Educational Research Association

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) website houses a collection of journal articles published since 2009 on topics related to the Common Core. Some topics include differences between the new and previous standards, the adoption process, underlying assumptions, and whether or not the standards represent an improvement.

More Edutopia Resources About the Common Core

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