November 09. 2013 9:43PM

# Common questions about Common Core

By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader

### Examples of Common Core standards

Following are some examples of Common Core State Standards. The full range of standards can be read at www.corestandards.org.
According to Heather Gage, director of the Division of Instruction and chief of staff for the New Hampshire Department of Education, the samples below are similar to the Grade Level Expectations that had been in place prior to the adoption of Common Core by the state Board of Education in 2010.
The state Department of Education has created a side-by-side comparison of Common Core standards and the GLE standards at www.education.nh.gov/spotlight/ccss/teachers.htm.

Grade 3 Common Core State Standards — Mathematical Practice
Domain: “Operations and Algebraic Thinking”
Topic: Represent and solve problems involving multiplication and division
Standard: Use multiplication and division within 100 to solve word problems in situations involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.
Standard: Determine the unknown whole number in a multiplication or division equation relating three whole numbers. For example, determine the unknown number that makes the equation true in each of the equations 8 × ? = 48, 5 = _ ÷ 3, 6 × 6 = ?

Grade 3 Common Core State Standards — English Language Arts
Domain: Reading Foundation Skills
Topic: Phonics and Word Recognition
Standard: Identify and know the meaning of the most common prefixes and derivational suffixes.
Standard: Decode words with common Latin suffixes.

High School Common Core State Standards — Mathematical Practice
Domain: Creating equations
Topic: Create equations that describe numbers or relationships
Standard: Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems. Include equations arising from linear and quadratic functions, and simple rational and exponential functions.
Standard: Create equations in two or more variables to represent relationships between quantities; graph equations on coordinate axes with labels and scales.

High School Common Core State Standards ­— English Language Arts
Domain: Writing
Topic: Text types and purposes
Standard: Introduce precise claims, distinguish the claims from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
Standard: Develop claims and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.

It's almost impossible to make any statement about the Common Core State Standards without a challenge from one side or the other in the highly politicized debate that has surrounded the project since early this year.

Nonetheless, what follows is an attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

What are the Common Core State Standards?

The standards consist of hundreds of statements as to what tasks students should be able to complete and what concepts they should understand at different grade levels, kindergarten to Grade 12, in English/language arts and mathematics, broken into domains for each grade level and topics within each domain. For example, in Grade 3 math, the "Operations and Algebraic Thinking" domain has a topic: Represent and solve problems involving multiplication and division.

One standard under that topic suggests that by the end of the year, students should be able to, "Use multiplication and division within 100 to solve word problems in situations involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem."

Does Common Core require a certain curriculum or textbooks?

The Common Core standards focus on learning expectations for students, not how students reach them. Curriculum plans that dictate the content of day-to-day instruction and associated materials, such as textbooks and study guides, are left to the discretion of local school districts.

There is a concern among opponents that textbooks and curriculum guides promoted as "aligned" or consistent with Common Core will "control the education of our children so they will conform to a preconceived normal," according to a Republican National Committee resolution against the standards.

Who developed the standards, and why?

The standards were developed by committees of teachers and education researchers brought together by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2008-09. Their work was funded by several sources, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pearson Publishing Company, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the governors and state schools chiefs organizations.

Their stated goal was to achieve consistency in standards across states so that students wouldn't be too far behind or too far ahead of their peers when moving from state to state; to cope with growing global competition in which other countries were outperforming the United States in standardized test results; and to adapt educational outcomes to the skills needed for success in today's workplace.

How are they different from current standards?

Common Core standards in many categories are not that different from the Grade Level Expectation (GLE) standards that New Hampshire had in place until 2010, when the state Board of Education replaced GLE with Common Core. From the broadest perspective, Common Core focuses on fewer topics and skill areas, but delves much deeper into each one.

Supporters of the standards characterize them as an inch wide but a mile deep, rather than a mile wide but only an inch deep. They are more focused on workplace readiness than previous standards, with more emphasis on informational text in the English categories, prompting opponents to characterize them as a sellout to corporate interests looking for government-funded job-training.

What if a school district decides not to adopt the standards?

The situation is different in every state. In New Hampshire, local school districts cannot be forced to adopt the standards, but they are required by state law to administer a standardized test approved by the state Board of Education. They are also required to administer standardized tests to certain grades at certain intervals to qualify for federal aid, which varies widely from district to district, depending on the number of children eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch.

The New England states had previously cooperated on the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAPS, which have been discontinued in light of the decision by all six states to adopt Common Core standards and use the Smarter Balanced standardized test developed with Common Core in mind.

The New Hampshire Education Department is seeking school districts willing to conduct a field test of the Smarter Balanced test in the spring of 2014 in preparation for the statewide rollout in 2015.

Districts such as Alton and Manchester that have opted out of Common Core and its associated tests will have to find another standardized test and have it approved by both state and federal authorities, or risk the loss of funding.

How does Common Core relate to No Child Left Behind?

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is still the law of the land, except in those states that have obtained a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, including New Hampshire. To receive the waiver, states needed to adopt either Common Core standards or another set of reading and math standards approved by higher education institutions in the state as college- and career-ready, and they must eventually have approved plans that link teacher evaluations to student outcomes.

New Hampshire chose Common Core standards to meet that portion of the waiver requirements. All but eight states are on NCLB waivers.

How does Common Core relate to Race to the Top?

"Race to the Top" is a \$4.3 billion grant program that was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or the so-called stimulus program.

Its stated purpose is to spur innovation and reforms in state and local school districts. Critics of Common Core say Race to the Top funding and NCLB waivers were held out as carrots to states in their most desperate economic times to force adoption of Common Core.

So far, 19 states have successfully submitted applications for Race to the Top Funding, ranging from \$700 million in Florida to \$74 million in Rhode Island. New Hampshire has not received any Race to the Top funding.

Will Smarter Balanced test results be used in teacher evaluations?

That will be a matter for each school district to decide as part of contract negotiations with local teacher unions. Linking teacher and administrator evaluation to student outcomes is one of the criteria in the Race to the Top application.

The nation's two largest teacher unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have called for a moratorium on high-stakes testing associated with Common Core until states and districts can cooperate on the necessary teacher training and curriculum development.

Despite concerns about testing, educators mostly support the new standards. An NEA poll conducted in July found that 75 percent of NEA members supported Common Core or supported it "with reservation."