California’s State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in August of 2010. The CCSS have been adopted by 45 states across the country. They aim to articulate consistent, clear standards for what students are expected to learn and be able to do in mathematics and English Language Arts from kindergarten through Grade 12, and to focus educators’ attention on “fewer, higher, and deeper standards.”
According to State Board of Education President Michael Kirst, “This changes almost everything.” The CCSS implicate every aspect of teaching, learning and assessment. In contrast to the scripted curricula and multiple choice assessments of the past, students will need to demonstrate an understanding of core ideas, carry out research and inquiry related to real world tasks, collaborate in problem solving, and communicate their use and interpretation of evidence in clear, compelling ways. To support the learning and skill development sought by CCSS, teachers’ classroom approaches will need to provide opportunities for students to engage in problem-solving, and construct evidence-based arguments. Teachers must move away from traditional practices that place them in the role of ‘sage on the stage’ and reward students for rote memorization. School leaders must support their teachers as they make these transitions, while engaging parents and community members in new ways. The practices and activities that faithful implementation of the CCSS would require are a long stretch for most California educators, and run contrary in many respects to deep-rooted features of teaching and learning in the United States.
The adoption and implementation of the CCSS coincides with the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which shifts responsibility and accountability in California’s education system from the state to local schools and school districts. The decentralization of authority under LCFF means that strategies for CCSS implementation and decisions about the allocation of resources to support implementation must be made at the local level, in consultation with parents and the broader community. The state still has some key roles to play, as we discuss below, but most key decisions about CCSS implementation are left up to local actors.