Common Core & North Carolina Essential Standards: What’s the Difference?

Next year (2012-2013) all public schools in North Carolina will transition from the Standard Course of Study to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the North Carolina Essential Standards (NCES). While many people seem to think the two are identical they are not (though they are similar), and so this post will focus on explaining the difference between the CCSS and the NCES.

The CCSS are only available for English Language Arts and Math, so if you hear people talk about Common Core standards for Social Studies or Science or the Arts they are mistaken. Let’s say that again: the Common Core State Standards are standards for what students should be able to know and do ONLY in the subjects of English Language Arts and Mathematics (K-12 in both areas). They are NOT federal or national standards:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt. The standards have been informed by the best available evidence and the highest state standards across the country and globe and designed by a diverse group of teachers, experts, parents, and school administrators, so they reflect both our aspirations for our children and the realities of the classroom. These standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce and that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. The standards are benchmarked to international standards to guarantee that our students are competitive in the emerging global marketplace.”

The CCSS were developed through cooperation of “parents, teachers, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders, through their membership in the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center)” (both quotes taken from the Common Core State Standards FAQ website). Currently, 43 states, plus the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands have adopted the CCSS.

The NCES, however, apply only to North Carolina, and they are for the areas of Science, Social Studies, Information & Technology Skills, the Arts, Healthful Living, World Languages, and the Occupational Course of Study. For all practical purposes you can think of the Common Core Standards as appyling to Math and English Language Arts (which includes writing) while the NCES applies to all other subject areas (there are some subject areas, such as guidance, which have yet to be approved, but for all practical purposes you can consider the NCES as “all other subjects”). The NCES were developed only by participants here in North Carolina, unlike the CCSS that were developed by people from across the nation. They also were developed with by basing the standards largely on the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (RBT), to the point that every strand in the NCES contains one verb from the RBT. Below is a chart comparing the two:

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) North Carolina Essential Standards (NCES)
Applies to 43 States + DC and USVI Applies ONLY to NC
Not aligned to Revised Blooms Taxonomy Uses the RBT terms in the objectives
Math and ELA Standards Only Science, Social Studies, Information & Technology Skills, the Arts, Healthful Living, World Languages, and the Occupational Course of Study
Developed by people across the country Developed by people in NC
Comprehensive K-12 Standards Comprehensive K-12 Standards
Grade Specific in K-8 and Subject Specific in 9-12 Grade Specific in K-8 and Subject Specific in 9-12
“Spiral” design where students learn the same basic standard each year but in greater depth/complexity “Spiral” design where students learn the same basic standard each year but in greater depth/complexity
Focus on teaching skills & information (do & know) Focus on teaching skills & information (do & know)

As you can see, the two sets of standards are similar in many ways but they are also different in many ways. This week there is actually a team of 14 people from Pitt County Schools receiving training in and developing a comprehensive professional development plan to prepare our teachers and administrators for the transition to both the CCSS and the NCES. As the year goes on we will be sharing more information and preparing more resources so everyone is fully equipped to make this transition. An important part of that plan is a full four days of staff development (on October 28, January 18, March 3, and March 28). Check back here often for more information!


School Improvement Summit: Final Thoughts & Reflection

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the daily summary of the SIIS this past week I encourage you to read the daily summaries before you read this final reflection.  They can be accessed by clicking on the following links: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

There are a couple of key elements I’m walking away from this summit spending a great deal of time reflecting on: the importance of attitude, the radical change required to fully implement common core, and the importance of building equity into our school system.  If you read my daily summaries you know that I attended sessions on more than those three issues, but those are the ones that stick out.  Let’s look at them each individually, including my thoughts on what they mean for me in my current position as well as for us as a district.


Attitude is one of the most important aspects of our jobs.  Right now we are facing a lot of changes in education as a whole and those are all trickling down to us here in PCS: Race to the Top, Common Core, implementation of PD360 and Observation 360, a fairly new teacher-evaluation model, new leadership in several schools and in several key positions at central office (well, once the vacant positions are filled!)  That’s a lot of change.  And too often we allow ourselves to have negative attitudes towards change.  So let’s look at some of these changes together and talk about where we’re headed and how we can have a positive attitude about them.

RttT – I’m not sure how much any of us fully understand the implications being a RttT state and district will have on us.  But know that RttT is driving many of the changes we are experiencing – and most of them are for the good of our students (I’d say all but I have learned that one of the few constants in the universe is to never say all or always!).  One of the key components of RttT is to look at teacher effectiveness – yet teacher effectiveness is often times difficult to define.  The best thing we can do as educators is consistently strive to do better at honing our craft – and that is what the new teacher evaluation tool, PD360, and Observation 360 are all about.  They are empowering us to reflect on our teaching, learn how to teach better, and then put into place a system by which we can monitor those changes which will lead to improved teacher effectiveness and, ultimately, student achievement.  Jim Knight reminded me this week that teaching is a highly personal endeavor – criticizing someone’s teaching is like criticizing someone’s parenting – it is a reflection of who we are.  So one of the things we need to learn to do as observers is better communicate a desire and intent to help teachers grow in their craft, offering prescriptive feedback as well as specific praise.  One of the things teachers need to better learn is to accept that suggestions are given with a desire to help and improve and not a “gotcha” intent.  This takes trust and honesty on all our parts – and trust is built over time.  One of the things PD360 and Observation 360 will empower us to do is to have open, honest, constructive conversations on teaching and learning.  The question remains: will we?  My job is to prepare everyone to be ready to use these powerful tools the way they are intended.

CCSS – The Common Core State Standards, like the new teacher evaluation rubric, are forcing us to look at how we teach and not just what we teach.  They are going to require students learn both knowledge and skills.  Next week a team from PCS (which will include administrators, teachers, central office personnel, and instructional coaches) will spend two days at a training to begin looking at the CCSS in depth as well as develop a comprehensive plan to provide staff development to our district as we prepare to introduce the standards in 2012.  Additionally, with the passage of the budget last month we now will be using five of our staff development days this year to specifically look at, learn, and prepare for the transition to the CCSS and the NC Essential Standards.  The goal here is to offer as much training and support as is humanly possible so that everyone is ready for this transition.

After my initial post on attitude (which was day 1) I received several emails responses, which opened up an electronic conversation with several educators I know from around the country.  One of the things I talked about was how when I do classroom observations I observe, as best I can, for how attitude is communicated in the classroom.  Statements such as “The teacher smiles during the lesson” and “The teacher communicates a belief that all students can learn” are questions I look to answer in practically every room I enter.  When I was in graduate school I did an action research project with two other classmates (who are now administrators) looking for trends in students who failed the EOG.  We looked and analyzed at all sorts of data – but the one thing that stood out to me was that every single student who failed the test reported they could not agree with the statement, “My teacher communicates a belief that I can learn.”  That was powerful to me – and it was the only item we could find 100% correlation on!  We need, as educators, to do a better job of communicating confidence in our students.  Attitude is everything!

Common Core

I’ve touched on this above so I won’t spend a lot of time on it, but I do want to say that after attending the Summit I discovered that NC is actually in a pretty good situation in regards to the CCSS implementation.  While it will require a shift in thinking about how we deliver education, I can also say that part of that shift – a big part of it – has already taken place because of the new teacher evaluation instrument.  The new teacher evaluation instrument has forced us to look at areas such as critical thinking skills, 21st century skills, and integrating literacy across the curriculum – something the CCSS require as well.  In talking with educators from states from all over the nation I discovered many are far behind in these areas, so the transition to CCSS is going to be even more difficult for them.  Our focus as a district (translation: my focus as the one who helps design and schedule professional development J) is to prepare and plan trainings for teachers so they are confident and competent to teach to these new standards.  One of the first steps will be the five PD days we have scattered throughout the year to address this – so be looking throughout the year for PD sessions, online trainings, and the such!


Inequality in education is something that has bothered me ever since the beginning of my career: why is it teachers will have different standards for students who look or speak differently than they do.  I know that no teacher will readily admit out loud to this, but the fact of the matter is we live in a society where we see thing through our own cultural lens and that impacts how we interact with and communicate with people of other cultures and races.  I want to share two quotes with you.  The first from a guy named Scott Williams, a diversity expert from Oklahoma (who happens to be black):

Let me share a little more of my personal story…  I spent 11 years, 44 days, and 8 hours of my adult life in the prison system.  It was as crazy as you can imagine: 8×10 cell, razor wire, bad food, pent up anger…PRISON.  Relax, I was actually a warden in the prison system.  Why does a brother always have to be in the prison system?  Unfortunately, some people did not even make it to this sentence as they said to themselves, ‘I’m not reading a book from a convict.’  For everyone else, the curious nature of human beings propelled you to read on.”

The second is by Bruce Reyes-Chow from San Francisco, California:

“If I had to choose one struggle, it would be around the issues of ‘color-blindness’ that many well-meaning people have.  The ‘I don’t see you as [insert ethnic group here]’ perspective, while noble, does two things that are not helpful.  One, it assumes that one’s race is something that the person wants someone to see beyond and, two, too often the ‘beyond’ we are striving for is simply a generic ‘white’ culture that, in the end, perpetuates a ‘lesser than’ understanding of people of color.”

The problem with addressing the issue of equity (or inequity) is we always try to find a program, book, or professional development training to do it for us.  While those things are not bad in and of themself they don’t bring about the radical reformation that is required to truly address the problem.  The only way to address this problem is to have a transformation in our thinking and our attitudes (there’s that “a” word again!)  This is more than implementing Culturally Responsive Teaching in our classrooms and this is more than looking at test scores by sub-group.  For those of you with PD360 access watch this link with a video of Dr. John Covington from Kansas City Schools.  If it doesn’t convince you of the importance of this issue then I’m not sure what will.  This is not a black problem, a white problem, a Hispanic problem, or an Asian problem.  This is a human problem that needs to be addressed – and the ones who are suffering because of it are our kids.  If you don’t think it’s a problem at all I challenge you to read Curtis Linton & Glenn Singleton’s book Courageous Conversations About Race.

How will I address this in my job?  One of the areas is by drawing attention to it for our teachers, administrators, and district at large.  Another is to start developing a platform to hold those long-term conversations regarding the issue of race and equity among people in our district – be it face to face or even online.  Watch for more of this as the year roles on.

So there you have it: my reflection on the 2011 School Improvement Innovation Summit.  Feel free to comment below to share your thoughts and feelings.  I know I’ve opened up some hot-button issues, and I’m not claiming to have all the answers – but I do know they are questions which need to be addressed.

School Improvement Summit: Day 3

Today’s post will be much shorter than yesterdays – I promise you!  Today was a couple of hours shorter than yesterday, so there just aren’t many notes to share…

Let’s start the day with toasted bagles and a Skype conference with presenter Heidi Hayes Jacobs on the Common Core.  This keynote was done via Skye, which at times was a little frustrating because of connection bandwidth issues.  Even though there were times it was hard to hear and understand her, though, there are a couple of key thoughts I want to pass one…  First, the new standards assume that every teacher is a language teacher and knows how to teach reading for informational texts as well as reaching ELL students (this really isn’t anything new to those of us in NC since our teacher evaluation rubric already requires this).  She also stressed that the topic of today’s conversation (and the CCSS in general) is that the focus is on standards and not curriculum.  The biggest problem, according to Jacobs, in regards to curriculum is not what we are going to teach but what we are going to leave out.  She also emphasized that the CCSS need to be seen as a whole (echoing what was shared by Curtis Linton at a training I did two weeks ago), going so far as to suggest there are no “3rd grade” standards because the standards are “K-12” standards.  She posed a very pointed question to the group – one which we talked about at my previous school quite a bit.  That question is, “What year are you preparing your students for in your school?”  Unfortunately, most of us had to answer that we were preparing our students for – at best – 1990, life 20 years ago.  Instead, we need to focus on preparing students for the year 2025!  Now that’s a new way to think about things.  She also shared a fantastic resource I want to pass on.  Check out – it has some absolutely fantastic resources on it to access 21st Century Skills and use Web 2.0 to do it.  Of particular interest are the Visual Thesaurus for ELA and the GapMinder for Math (click on Clearinghouse and then choose the appropriate tag and they’ll pull up).

The next presentation I went to was entitled, “Using PD360 to Make Great Principals” and was presented by Meg Crittenden from Kentucky.  I wish I could say her presentation was one the blew me away, but I found that much of the information in it was familiar to me.  And, worse yet, she had only been using PD360 for “2 months” (those are her words).  I guess you can call me a skeptic, but I have a hard time trusting someone when they share something they’ve only been using PD360 for two months.  Granted, I love PD360 and believe in the power it can unleash in education, but I think in order to have some credibility you need to also show longitudinal data to support your claims.  She showed how she was going to use PD360 in her graduate-level principal prep classes in the hopes that as students graduate and move into leadership positions they are prepared to use the program in their schools.  She did share a couple of interesting pieces of information, and one was this quote by Irving Jones: “A school’s failure or success depends upon the principal’s leadership.”  It reminded me of John Maxwell’s statement that “everything rises and falls on leadership.”  Now not having been a principal I’m not going to speak about what it’s like to be a principal, but I did think it was worth sharing her thoughts on this.

The most interesting session for me – but the one I will blog the least about – was the one done by Michelle King on Creating Custom Courses in PD360.  This is something I played with a little bit over the past year but I never got any of them to a point that I felt comfortable sharing with others.  This year I’m going to take some of her suggestions and put them to use to develop some follow-up courses on PD360 for our teachers in PD360 – so be looking sometime around December/January!  I will say that the mission statement of her school district was a great one and I’d like to share it: “The mission of the Coppell Independent School District, as a committed and proven leader in educational excellence, is to ensure our learners achieve personal success, develop strong moral character, and become dynamic leaders and global citizens with a zeal for service by engaging each individual through innovative learning experiences led by a visionary staff and progressive community.”  Yeah, I think that about sums it up – not sure I can add anything to that!

Finally, the day ended with an absolutely fantastic presentation by Jim Knight on Coaching.  Dr. Knight shared his nine components needed for instructional coaching (which I won’t re-iterate here), but more important than that he communicated a belief that all teachers can grow and improve.  His presentation reminded me of a paper I was working on recently that addressed this very issue.  As observers in classrooms (whether on formal observations or just walk-throughs) it is imperative that we offer prescriptive feedback to our teachers: feedback that is specific and also offers suggestions for improvement.  Those suggestions can be very directed or they can be more subtle depending on the needs and skill level of the teacher.  We also need to remember as observers that we need to focus on building that coaching relationship with our teachers instead of always being seen as an evaluator (granted, I’m stretching Dr. Knight’s words here quite a bit because he was talking about being a full-time coach whereas I’m applying his principles to work as an administrator).  Coaches are partners with their “coachee”, and part of that is speaking in adult voice instead of parent voice, creating an atmosphere of trust and honest, and listening to the teacher’s needs and desires.  I suppose I’ll have to develop this a little more in another post because it really is getting beyond the scope of the presentation, so just be looking for more posts on this topic in the future!

Over all I’d have to say this was an absolutely wonderful conference, and I’m hoping to come back next year.  Tomorrow I’ll work on putting together some final thoughts and reflections on the entire trip, so check back soon!

School Improvement Innovation Summit: Day 2

Wow.  That’s all I can say – wow.  How do I capture 11.5 hours of the SIIS into one blog post – it’s not even really possible.  Today was the classic example of information overload – it’s a good thing I took notes – because after the first several sessions I was having trouble focusing and concentrating on what was being shared.  Let’s travel through the day together as I work to review and reflect on what was shared…

After a wonderful buffet breakfast (hey, what can I say – I like food :)) the opening session was led by Chet Linton, President & CEO of the School Improvement Network. A couple of things he shared that I’ll pass on.  First, there is a group on PD360 for the SIIS – so if you haven’t joined it you may want to do so ASAP (do a search for “Innovation Summit”).  He did a great presentation on the changes in education over the past century, focusing on innovations of today and how that impacts education.  Education as we know it today is a result of the industrial age – a time when information was controlled and classrooms were isolated.  But today’s world is not like that any more: today information is just a click away from anyone with a cell phone (and most, if not all our students have those), and students live connected lives and are used to making choices.  As Chet reminded us, students today are “digital natives” and are used to publishing, collaborating, and contributing to the world around them – yet in schools we still approach education as a transfer of knowledge from the expert (teacher) to the student.  It is a great illustration (unfortunately) of Albert Einstein’s statement, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”  Which raises the question: how are we going to change how we teacher to better match how students can learn?  Chet set the stage for the rest of the summit – a summit which strives to answer that question.

Next on the docket was Karen Cator, Director, Office for Education Technology for the US Department of Education.  Ms. Cator did a fantastic job of setting forth a vision for Learning Powered Technology: a place where learning is focused on 21st Century experiences (not memorizing information), focusing on how people learn and using current brain research to design instruction, using assessment to measure “what matters”, and creating a teaching workforce that is “highly effective and highly connected”.  Her goals were lofty and her speech inspirational  – now it just remains to be seen if we as educators are up to the task, a task that will require many of us to change our entire philosophy of education (including what it is, how it takes places, and our role in it).   A copy of the National Technology Plan can be found by clicking on this link – the plan she presented to us and had a major part in authoring.

I spent two sessions of the day attending sessions focused on equity and reaching students of different cultures.  The first was presented by Bonnie Davis entitled, “Teaching Students Who Don’t Look Like Me.”  Bonnie was honest about her own struggles in this area, something I found refreshing in a presenter, and I was able to identify with her in so many ways.  She shared some specific strategies to help acknowledge, honor, and validate the people we work with (students and staff), and also reminded us of the importance of having role models for our students to look up to.  One of the most thought-provoking things she said all day was sharing research which indicates “The number of feet one must walk before seeing a picture of a black male doing something besides entertainment or sports has a correlation to academic achievement for black males at the school.”  This absolutely astounded me!  She also focused on our need as educators to develop cultural proficiency – telling us it’s a journey to learn “what I don’t know I don’t know.”  Some other things I didn’t know: brain research indicates that as we approach students, once we get about 8 feet away students are able to figure out if we like them or not; brain research also indicates that we should get within an arms length of every student in our classroom multiple times every hour – because that communicates a “like for” the student and reinforces the belief that we care for and believe in them.  Yet how often in classes does the teacher spend the entire class period (or most of it) at the front of the room by the board.  Or, worse yet, sitting at a desk or podium?  Teachers need to be up moving around the room – not just to monitor students, but to connect with them as well.  Finally, she discussed the issues of the culture lens through which we view the world.  For me, that’s a white, middle-class male lens – because that’s my culture.  And that culture influences both my leadership and teaching style.  Yet how often do I consider that when I design instruction for those I teach?

Curtis Linton was one of the few presenters today who actually brought a tear to my eye.  Curtis co-authored the book Courageous Conversations about Race and has just released a new book (which I had him autograph!) entitled Equity 101 and his presentation entitled, “Equity & Courageous Conversations” was absolutely amazing.  He started by identifying the three areas equity resides and the three areas we need to address to improve equity: our personal beliefs and experiences, our institutional beliefs and expectations, and our professional attitudes and behavior.  Curtis shared specific information regarding his own history as well as his family’s experiences now that he’s a father.  As with Bonnie Dixon, he was open and honest about his experiences and struggles and concerns, and he made a very important point that providing/ensuring equity is not something that can be accomplished by just doing some professional development but requires people to have a fundamental change in beliefs so that they can truly strive to meet the needs of all students (and not have different expectations for students based on how they look).

One of the highlights of the day was the lunch keynote presentation by Dr. John Covington and Mary Essleman of the Kansas City School District.  Their experience in working to turn around an entire district was nothing short of miraculous and inspirational.  I hope this presentation makes its way onto PD360 at some point in the future because my paragraph highlight hardly does it justice.  Two things that were said which stood out to me that I want to share.  First is the fact that Kansas City is transitioning it schools to standards based schools, meaning they do not have grades any more but look at what students need to know at different “levels” and not allowing a student to progress until they have mastered that content.  I’m not sure how it all works (because he didn’t get in to that), but it is something I want to take time to look at and explore more.  The second was the conviction he shared that “all kids” really means “all kids”.  He shared that when he met with principals who wanted to increase their proficiency from “20% to 25%” he told them he felt that was too low of a bar, but he would allow them to keep it there if the principals would “Let [him] come to your school and walk through the halls with you and you point out to [him] which of the 75% of students you are going to write off.”

The second focus of the day today (for me) was attendance at sessions focused on the Common Core State Standards. Trenton Goble shared a program called MasteryConnect which has been designed to track student performance on the common core standards.  Syd Dixon (who works for the Utah State Office of Education) shared information on how Utah is making the transition to the Common Core Standards in an effort to provide a model for other districts to share.  Without going into too much detail, her model seems very similar to that which North Carolina is following.  She also spent a portion of her presentation discussing what the Common Core is, but instead of sharing all that information here I’ll simply refer you to a previous post I did early this month on the subject.

The day ended by a final presentation by Michael Fullan on motion leadership.  I’ll be honest and just tell you that this particular session just had too much information in it presented in too short of a period at too late in the day for me to process.  If you’d like to read more about what his presentation focused on click on this link, which will take you to his paper on the subject.  The one thing I do want to share from this presentation is his emphasis on creating a system of Core Beliefs for a school and district – something reinforced by Curtis Linton in his presentation on Equity and my own experience in talking with others and serving at schools.  He shared the core beliefs of one system he worked with as follows:

1) Hope is not a strategy

2) Don’t blame the kids

3) It’s all about learning

And I have to say those are pretty good core beliefs.  One of the things I struggle with is when districts and schools say they have a belief but then their actions do not back it up.  As a profession most of us would say we believe “all students can learn”, but too often we don’t act that way.  We write students off because of how they look, act, or talk.  Then we try to justify our hypocrisy by saying, “Well I believe all students CAN learn, but not all students WILL learn.” or “I believe I students can learn, but not all students can learn at the same rate and to the same standard.”

And so we get to the heart of the problem: a lack of belief and a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we act.  I won’t get into the details of my personal life and personal beliefs regarding issues outside of education in this  post, but when my younger sister died suddenly over 12 years ago I had to face a crisis of belief where I needed to decide if I was going to have the same beliefs about life and death as I said I did or I just needed to change what I said I believed so it lined up with how I acted.  The same is true of education today: too many people claim to believe one thing yet act in ways that are contrary to that belief.  Shame on us!

Because of the length of this post and, most likely, the length of tomorrow’s post, I’ll share some more detailed reflective thoughts and wrap-up on Thursday after the conference is over and I’ve had time to better process all the information that was shared.  For today, though, I hope you have a little taste of what happened – and if it was any reflection of what will happen tomorrow then tomorrow is looking like a good day.

If you’d like copies of my raw notes from the sessions you are free to click on this link, which will take you to them.

Common Core: A New Way to Teach

The Common Core State Standards have been approved and accepted for ELA and Math (with Science and Social Studies currently in development), and that means big changes for those of us in the education field.  This post will serve as just an introduction to Common Core, but over the course of the next year I’ll be sharing a lot more on it as we journey down this road together.

To begin with, let’s correct a common misconception about Common Core: it is NOT an attempt at a “federal standard” established by the federal government.  Common Core was initiated and designed by individual states – and at this point in time the majority of states have adopted the CCSS (this link will show you who has and who has not adopted them) and, more importantly, North Carolina is one of those states.

In order to fully appreciate the CCSS we need to recognize this is not just a re-working of the old way of doing things (ie, a rewording/reordering of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study).  The CCSS is a fundamental redesign of the expectations laid upon us as educators – they focus not only on what students should “know” but also on what students need to “do”.  This is achieved by designing skill sets for students to master, not simply information they need to memorize.  The CCSS  strive to answer the key question: Are all students college and/or career ready when they graduate.  Fundamentally, they will transition us from preparing students to succeed through school to preparing students to succeed after school.

Here’s some information directly from the CCSS homepage you may find interesting:

These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.

Here’s a very effective analogy I heard recently: the traditional standards are structured more like a step-ladder or staircase, where students learn one concept then move up to the next concept then move up to the next concept, etc.  This causes problems in education because if students fail to master a concept or are never exposed to it there is a gap in their learning.  The CCSS, however, can best be thought of as a circular stair case where students travel both up and around: up in terms of learning more advanced concepts and skills but around as they learn those basic skills throughout their entire K-12 years.  For example, under current standards we don’t think of teaching algebra to 2nd graders, but the CCSS are designed so that throughout the 13 years students spend in public education they will learn algebraic concepts every year at developmentally appropriate levels.

If you’d like more information about the CCSS please visit their website at  A great primer on the standards (and why they are needed) can be found by clicking here and a list of common myths regarding the standards is available here.

(Cross posted from the Pitt County Schools Race to the Top/Staff Development blog)