Frequently Asked Questions
What are educational standards?
Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.
What is the Common Core Standards initiative?
- The Common Core State Standards initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt.
- The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.
- The standards are clear and concise and ensure that families, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of the expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics in school.
Why did Connecticut join the Common Core State Standards initiative?
The standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter where they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad. Unlike previous state standards, which were unique to every state in the country, the Common Core State Standards enable collaboration between states.
How were the standards developed?
- The desire to develop higher, shared standards was expressed by states early in 2007 at the Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Annual Policy Forum. State education chiefs and governors, through their membership in CCSSO and the National Governors Association (NGA), led the development of the Common Core State Standards.
- States across the country collaborated with teachers, researchers, and leading experts to design and develop the Common Core State Standards. Local teachers, principals, and superintendents lead the implementation of the Common Core.
What guidance do the Common Core State Standards provide to teachers?
The Common Core State Standards are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills students need in English language arts and mathematics at each grade level to ultimately be prepared to graduate college and be career ready. The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.
Does the Common Core prevent Connecticut teachers from teaching literature?
- The standards do not limit reading to non-fiction, but suggest a balance between perspectives. Recognizing that teachers, school districts, and states should decide on appropriate curriculum, the standards do not offer required reading lists.
- The standards establish what students need to learn, but do not tell teachers how to teach so they can tailor instruction, allowing for continued flexibility and creativity.
Will the Smarter Balanced assessments result in standardization of teaching and learning?
- A founding principle of Smarter Balanced testing is that teachers and students need high-quality data, tools, and resources to support improvements in student learning.
- Smarter Balanced is not just an end-of-year accountability test. It is an assessment system that features flexible, non-secure interim assessments to be offered at teachers’ and schools’ discretion throughout the school year. The system also includes a digital library of formative assessment tools, practices, and professional development resources built by teachers, for teachers to improve the quality of information collected through the daily classroom activities of assignments, quizzes, and observation of student work.
- The end-of-year tests will help schools evaluate how well their students performed by comparing their aggregate data with aggregate data from other schools across the nation. The end-of-year assessments also will empower students and parents by providing them with a clear indication of how well their children are progressing toward mastering the academic knowledge and skills necessary for college and career readiness.
How can we find out about these new tests?
Smarter Balanced aims for complete transparency. All of the key documents describing the assessment (content specifications, item specifications, item writing training materials, test blueprints, accommodations framework, achievement level descriptors, technology specifications, etc.) are available to the public on the Smarter Balanced website.
Have these new assessments been tested?
- Smarter Balanced has incrementally tested the content of the assessment and the technology that will support the assessment.
- In Cognitive Labs, individual students provided feedback to test developers about their experience with the innovative test questions, accommodations for students with special needs, and the testing software.
- In small- scale trials, different types of questions and software features were further tried out with hundreds of students.
- In a pilot test, students at about 5,000 schools across the Consortium responded to a preliminary pool of test questions and performance tasks.
Will these tests require advanced technology that schools do not have and cannot afford?
- The Smarter Balanced assessment is being designed to work with the computing resources in schools today. The assessments can be offered on very old operating systems and require only the minimum processors and memory required to run the operating system itself.
- A 600-student middle school could test its students using only one 30-computer lab.
What does this work mean for students with disabilities and English language learners?
- The Common Core State Standards give states the opportunity to share experiences and best practices, which can lead to an improved ability to serve young people with disabilities and English language learners.
- The standards include information on application of the standards for these groups of students.
Adapted from: Connecticut State Department of Education, "Common Core State Standards Communications Toolkit", Summer 2013.