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Common Core and Essential Standards


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The Common Core & Essential Standards:
What’s Important to Know


North Carolina adopted the new Common Core State Standards for K-12 Mathematics and English Language Arts in June 2010, for implementation in fall 2012. The new standards – along with Essential Standards for additional subject areas – will provide stronger, clearer and more consistent goals for what students should learn and master in order to be ready for college, career and life. This is the heart of our work.

The new standards for English Language Arts demonstrate an integrated model of literacy. The communication skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening and language are blended throughout the standards with a balance of informational and literary text. Other key features of these standards include the expectation that students will read a broad range of increasingly complex texts over time. They also include informational, argumentative and narrative writing that requires students to use evidence from texts.  The literacy standards for history/social studies, science and technical subjects support a shared responsibility for students’ literacy development.

The new standards for Math focus heavily on arithmetic in grades K-5. Arithmetic as a rehearsal for algebra places emphasis on how the number system works, the application of properties in computation and understanding of fractions.  Middle schools move into algebra readiness with building number theory and the study of proportional reasoning.  In high school, modeling permeates all themes: algebra, numbers, geometry, functions and statistics and probability.

 Why the Common Core?

 It is important for educators, parents and supporters to fully understand why these changes are taking place.  Following are pertinent points about the Common Core State Standards that everyone involved in public education in North Carolina should know regarding why and how we are charting this course:

  • North Carolina has traditionally invested in curriculum updates and revisions at least every five years.  The     most recent revision efforts began in 2008, in response to a state Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability.
  • This endeavor began long before North Carolina pursued and won the Race to the Top (RttT) federal grant. In other words, the resulting adoption of a new Common Core and Essential Standards in 2010 was an important step we were going to take regardless of whether or not we received RttT funding.
  • With RttT funding, North Carolina can develop a more solid implementation of the new standards, ensuring that they are well understood and well taught.
  • The Common Core State Standards provide clarity for what students need to know and be able to do to be college and career ready. Our students must graduate with a deeper understanding of what they must know to succeed beyond high school. These new standards will help to ensure that our students are learning – and mastering – that which their contemporaries across the country are learning and mastering.
  • The new Common Core State Standards will foster a more consistent, equitable learning experience for students. The new standards will foster greater equity across socioeconomic levels, among races and ethnicities and regardless of geography. We owe it to our students to make sure they are competitive not only with others in their school, community or state, but also with the rest of the nation and the world.
  • Having standards that align with those across the nation also provides opportunities for sharing of resources and economies of scale. Teaching to the same standards offers limitless opportunities for NC teachers to share creative lesson plans and innovative supporting activities with their colleagues in California, Colorado or right next door. Sharing of instructional resources also can lead to significant savings for school districts.
  • Standards that match those of our counterparts across the United States means more fluid mobility for our students. In our transient culture, we want NC’s students equipped to walk into a classroom anywhere in the country and be on track. Likewise, teachers in our state can devote more time to meaningful instruction rather than remediation for students who have relocated here.
  • The Common Core State Standards provide fewer, yet clearer and higher expectations for students. The new standards take us from those that were formerly “a mile wide and an inch deep” to those that are narrower and more focused. They will delve deeper and enable teachers and students to have richer and June St. Clair Atkinson, State Superintendent William C. Harrison, State Board of Education Chairman more meaningful instruction, with the end result being fuller understanding and higher levels of mastery among students.

 Essential Standards

 In addition to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, North Carolina adopted new Essential Standards in all other subjects including social studies, science, information and technology, world languages, health and physical education, arts education, career technical education and guidance.  The new Essential Standards will dovetail with the new Common Core to ensure that our students have a greater understanding of what they are learning. Together, all of our new standards will provide a much sharper focus on the skills students must have by the time they graduate, including:

  • collaboration skills;
  • critical-thinking skills;
  • research skills;
  • problem-solving skills; and,
  • technology skills.

 The new Common Core State Standards and the new Essential Standards will become North Carolina’s new Standard Course of Study in fall 2012. They have been crafted in such a way that they will ensure that upon graduation students will have a deeper understanding of what they must know to be READY for higher education, for work – and for life.

State Board of Education/Department of Public Instruction



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