Keeping Current on Common Core (CIC Snapshot)

At AEP’s 2011 Content in Context conference Dan Caton, McGraw-Hill School Education; Beth Cocuzza, Math Education Consultant; Peter Cohen, Pearson School; David Coleman, Student Achievement Partners, LLC; and Ellen Forte, Ph.D., edCount LLC discussed what publishers need to know now about the Common Core standards. Below are highlights from the presentations.


  • The standards were developed at the state level. It was started and led by the states based on the best innovations that the states had already done. Although the Dept. of Education has supported them, they did not take part in drafting them.
  • The standards are more rigorous and complex than current standards. Dan Caton pointed out that there are studies showing many differences between current learning goals and the Common Core, and assessments and curricula need to change to meet the new standards.
  • The Dept. of Ed. has issued four grants for assessments: two for regular classrooms and two for special needs. Development of the assessments has taken longer, though, than initially expected.
  • There has also been a call for a Common Curriculum, as well as a group that opposes any attempt to create something similar to a national curriculum.
  • There are markets outside of the Continental U.S., such as the Northern Mariana Islands, that are interested in adopting the Common Core.

What should publishers know now?

Ellen Forte, Ph.D. President and Founder, edCount, LLC
Simply adopting them at the state level does not mean the teachers are implementing them. We need to look closely at the classrooms, see whether or not teachers are using them, and provide professional development so they can understand them. This is especially important in special needs classrooms. Three principles that are important to effectively implement: based soundly in research and theory, well implemented, continuously monitor and evaluate.

Peter Cohen, CEO, Pearson School

  1. When trying to prepare instructional materials, read the Publishers Criteria from Student Achievement Partners.
  2. Think through the goals of the standards–they’re different than many standards you have seen before.
  3. Be careful with early investments and saying you are compliant. The standards and the implementation will morph over the next couple of years.
  4. Print is moving out of favor, quickly.
  5. Think mobile: how quickly can you assess, where can students access, etc.
  6. Collaboration technology changes the competitive landscape.
  7. Assessments will be integrated into instruction.
  8. Expect continued price compression
  9. Books are dead–long live tagging and repositories

Overall, Cohen says to worry less about Common Core and more about engaging kids.

Beth Cocuzza, Math Education Consultant

  • There are two major design principles of Common Core, which are also a strategy for implementation: focus and coherence.
  • In the math standards there is a new perspective and approach to teaching mathematics in each grade. Rather than sampling a little bit of each subject in math, there will be an intense focus on specific areas in each grade (70% of instructional time), e.g., addition and subtraction in K-2, with some additional instructional areas, e.g., geometry and measurement in K-2 (20%), and then some sample topics, such as patterns and statistics/data in K-2 (10%).
  • Common Core math development group has a brief list of criteria for quality curriculum: effectiveness, practices (standards for mathematical practices), excellence, focus and coherence over coverage, balance of approach, capacity-building, alignment, comprehensiveness.

David Coleman, Founder and CEO, Student Achievement Partners

  • The goal of Student Achievement Partners is not to compete in the market but to help everyone and to make the standards clearer to publishers.
  • Aim is to create as coherent a marketplace as possible as they create Publishers’ Criteria Common Core State Standards. It is not a checklist but a guide to the criteria and how to fulfill the goals of the Common Core Standards. (Read the Publishers’ Criteria for ELA and Literacy for Grades K-2 and Grades 3-12.)
  • The Publishers’ Criteria document lists criteria for ELA materials in grades 3-12 and for history/social studies, science, and technical materials in grades 6-12. Each part has these key criteria:
    • Text Selection (text complexity and range; quality of texts)
    • Questions and Tasks (High-quality, text-dependent questions and tasks; cultivating students’ ability to read complex texts independently)
    • Academic Vocabulary
    • Writing to Sources and Research
    • Additional Key Criteria for Student Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking (for ELA grades 3-12): reading complex texts with fluency, increasing focus on argument and informative writing, engaging in academic discussions, using multimedia and technology skillfully, and covering the most significant grammar and language conventions
  • The criteria calls for a clear research plan for showing efficacy so as not to stifle innovation.

Regarding the extra 15% flexibility that states can add to the Common Core Standards, Forte said that no one is quite sure what the extra 15% means. Coleman said that he would focus on the Common Standards that exist now and not worry about the 15%. The thing to demonstrate now is with the standards is elegance, efficiency, and efficacy, said Coleman.

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June 2011


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