Common Misconceptions about the Common Core

Misconceptions about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative have fueled widespread controversy. What are the authentic concerns, and what are the myths surrounding implementation of these new state standards?

MYTH: The Common Core State Standards will be managed through federal programs like No Child Left Behind and/or the Race to the Top grant program.

FACT: The Common Core State Standards were developed, reviewed and ratified at the state level with participation from nonpartisan nonprofit groups, local educators, administrators and citizens. The federal government was not involved in planning these standards and the U.S. Department of Education is not monitoring their implementation. Some of the confusion on this point may stem from the fact that many states that adopted the Common Core have also received federal grants from President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program (RTTT). Common Core architects maintain that while federal education goals may align with the new standards, the federal government will not control, dictate or monitor implementation of the standards, even if states have received grants to achieve RTTT goals.

MYTH: Teachers must use a curriculum mandated by the Common Core.

FACT: The Common Core State Standards articulate what students need to learn, not how teachers need to teach. States are giving teachers a range of resources to ease CCSS implementation into their classrooms. While some districts may require certain texts or materials to achieve consistency, the official stance of the CCSS Initiative is that states, districts and individual schools should have flexibility in deciding how best to guide teachers during implementation.

MYTH: The Common Core State Standards will require additional student testing.

FACT: Full implementation of the standards will replace year-end state tests with tests based on grade-level Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts (ELA). Students will not have to take CCSS tests on top of state-level tests.

MYTH: The material covered by the Common Core State Standards is not relevant to all students.

FACT: The standards were created after consulting a body of educational research and studying the educational standards of the top-performing countries in the world. The standards address career skills, college readiness and course content, and are intended to prepare students across the nation to perform in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

MYTH: The Common Core State Standards adequately address the needs of all students, including those with special needs and English language learners.

FACT: Because the standards articulate only what students should learn, the work of accommodating students with disabilities and modifying material to meet the needs of students with individualized education plans remains the responsibility of local educators trained in the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The standards emphasize rigorous thinking and deep understanding; teachers must decide what is most appropriate for the students in their classroom and differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners.

MYTH: The Common Core State Standards focus only on skills, not content.

FACT: The standards include suggestions for grade-level appropriate texts in ELA, and they stress the importance of reading fiction texts and content-rich nonfiction documents. The math standards for elementary grades focus on building a foundation of skills that allows students to apply rigorous problem-solving techniques during the middle and high school grades.

MYTH: ELA teachers will have to teach social studies and science content as part of the shift toward nonfiction content.

FACT:  ELA teachers will assign fiction and content-rich nonfiction in their ELA courses. Science and social studies teachers will be encouraged to include more reading and writing in their courses. Many states are using this focus on nonfiction texts to build more collaboration across the academic disciplines.

MYTH: The Common Core math standards leave out several key topics or present them in the incorrect order.

FACT: The math standards aim to create a consistent, mathematically coherent sequence that allows for easier transitions for students who transfer across state lines. Several states may offer a different progression of math content than they have used in the past. The Common Core Initiative used research-based evidence to determine the order of topics.

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