David T. Conley
Apotential sea change is underway in U.S. education. With stunning rapidity, 47 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to replace their state content standards with the recently developed
Common Core State Standards. Even more remarkable
in some respects, 45 states have joined the two
assessment consortia working to replace their existing
tests with new assessments aligned with the standards.
These developments create the opportunity for
U.S. schools to move beyond test-prep instruction
that fosters shallow learning—a practice that seems
to have reached epidemic proportions in recent years.
Implemented correctly, the common standards and
assessments can vault education over the barrier of
low-level test preparation and toward the goal of world-class learning outcomes for all students. Implemented
poorly, however, the standards and assessments could
result in accountability on steroids, stifling meaningful
school improvement nationwide.
That’s why all states that adopt the Common Core
State Standards, as well as educators who will be
affected by these standards, should make it a top priority to ensure that the new standards and assessments
are used to focus instruction on developing key cognitive strategies and skills that students need for college
Overview of the Standards
The Common Core State Standards, released in June
2010, were developed under the sponsorship of the
National Governors Association and the Council of
Chief State School Officers.
1 Thus, states controlled the
process and content of the initiative.
The standards focus on two areas: English language
arts and mathematics. In high school, however, the
English language arts standards for reading, writing,
speaking and listening, and language are also trans-
lated to literacy standards in history and social studies,
science, and technical subjects. The expectation is that
students will develop literacy skills specific to these
subject areas in addition to what they learn in their lan-
guage arts classes.
Much debate has taken place about the specific curriculum content the Common Core State Standards
should include. Although the standards do address
content, often overlooked in these debates is the fact
that the standards identify the cognitive processes and