What Is Common Core

Common Core is known for being confusing, disliked, and frustrating, but what is common core?

Common Core is a set of standards a child should learn in each grade. It is standardized across states to ensure children learn the same concepts for each grade. When families move between states, the children don’t need to enter a lower grade than their age due to differences in education standards.

Not all states use Common Core, but the majority have signed onto this. Common Core has standards in math and reading. NGSS has standards for science and has been adopted in many states. There are many misconceptions about Common Core, such as the repeated complaint that Common Core is responsible for how a subject is taught (spoiler: it’s not).

What Common Core Is and Is Not

Common Core Is:

  • Set of standards
  • Tells teachers what to teach in each grade
  • Sets expectations for learning
  • It breaks down learning goals

Common Core Is NOT:

  • Style of teaching
  • Flexible to student needs
  • Optional for teachers
  • How to teach

Common Core Definition

Common Core State Standards Initiative is usually shortened to simply “Common Core,” was first introduced in 2010, and many states across the US have adopted it as the standard for what students should know by the end of a grade, broken up into math and reading for Kindergarten to 12th grade.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) developed under the direction of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). 

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

States That Use Common Core

Not all states use Common Core, and some that did use it have since repealed the measures to replace them with their own standards. Below is a list of states that currently have Common Core as their state standards. The states in italics are reviewing the continued use. sourceOpens in a new tab.

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Below is a list of states that either never adopted Common Core or have since repealed it:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Virginia

Purpose of Common Core

The Obama administration advocates for education standards designed to make all high school graduates “college- and career-ready.”

William J. MathisOpens in a new tab.

The goal of this initiative? To develop a set of shared national standards ensuring that students in every state are held to the same level of expectations that students in the world’s highest-performing countires are, and that they gain the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for success in postsecondary education and in the global arena.

Understanding Common Core State StandardsOpens in a new tab.

Simply put, it ensures that all states cover the same material at the same point in a child’s education and that this aligns with the best standards to compete in a world market.

Common Core Is Not…

Parents need to understand that Common Core is not a particular teaching style and that the new way of teaching math is not what Core Curriculum is. Rather than a way of teaching, it simply standardizes what should be learned in each grade. It replaced “No Child Left Behind” when it became obvious that it wasn’t successful. sourceOpens in a new tab.

 With appropriate supports and applications, students with learning disabilities can potentially benefit greatly from these new standards. However, the demands of these standards may require a higher level of support than those commonly available for many students with learning disabilities.

Thomas E. Scruggs, Frederick J. Brigham, Margo A. Mastropieri

The article quoted above was written at the beginning of the implementation of the Core Curriculum and is almost an echo of the past ten years down the road. The authors accurately predicted what would happen in Special Education classrooms across the US.

Schools have done exactly what they told them not to do. There was not significant support for students with disabilities offered, and schools instead blamed the students themselves and their disabilities, leading to a low graduation rate among students with disabilities.

For Core Curriculum to work for students with disabilities, teachers would need significant flexibility in how they present the information. They also need significant support from the districts to create equity in their classrooms.

Common Core Is Not…

  • Required by the US Department of Education
  • Teaching Method
  • Different State to State
  • Different between classrooms
  • Lesson Plans
  • A way to teach math

Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Use Common Core Curriculum

If you are a public school teacher in one of the states listed above that has adopted Common Core, you don’t have a choice in the matter and must teach to those state standards. If you are in one of the other states listed, you will need to follow the state requirements in your state.

If you are a private school teacher or homeschool, you may consider using Common Core or not. There are many benefits of Common Core, the most important of which is setting standards for what should be taught at each level. If you start a curriculum that is not Common Core and decides to switch to another curriculum later on, you may not be able to tell what level a student should be at simply by the level the curriculum states.

Common Core can be great for students who like to switch curricula constantly; sticking to one set of standards is usually best. However, some students like or need spiral mastery, where they review topics already covered each week for a refresher.

Ultimately, you need to look at what is best for your student to decide whether Common Core Curriculum is right for you.

Common Core Standards

Use the links below to jump to the pages with information on each of the Common Core standards and important information related to the standards.



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