ISSUE BRIEF – Common Core & Kansas College and Career Ready Standards

What are the State Standards, Common  Core &
Kansas College and Career Ready?

Common Core State Standards (CCSS)1 are grade-level expectations that explicitly define what students should understand and be able to do in mathematics and English language arts, from kindergarten through high school. Kansas adopted these rigorous standards in 2010, with enhancements to re-align Common Core priority standards with our own.  In 2013 Kansas approved updated standards in the two other content areas – science and history/government/social studies. All four of these content standards together are referred to as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards.2

Consider what Common Core State Standards are NOT

Standards are NOT curriculum materials. Standards are NOT instructional strategies, nor teachers’ lesson plans. Local school districts and school boards select the curricula—instructional textbooks and materials. Teachers determine the techniques and methods they use to help students learn the curricula. Both curricula and instruction are the tools used to help students achieve state standards.


What do the standards look like?

Click on the Parent Roadmaps for concrete examples of the CCSS at every grade-level.3  A full detailed description of Kansas’ enhanced Common Core Mathematics and English Language Arts and Literacy Standards are available at the KSDE website, as well as the updated state standards in History, Government, and Social Studies and Science.1

Each of the content standards has its own organizational structure. Math, for example, is organized around groups of related standards, by grade level. Grades K-8 are structured around eleven groups, referred to as domains, with a designated set of domains prioritized at each grade level (see Table 1).4  At the high school level, the standards are organized by conceptual category:  number and quantity, algebra, functions, geometry, modeling, and probability & statistics. 

Grade-level prioritization is one of the important improvements over the previous standards, best visualized on this CCSSM Clickable Map. In the past, teachers and students were responsible for too many standards at each grade level, limiting teacher’s time to dig deep into any one domain.  The current structure differentiates those standards that are a priority for the grade level at hand, from upcoming domains that teachers address more for the purpose of laying a foundation for later learning.


Changing Education Standards?

  •  When?  K-12 education has been driven by standards since the 1990s,5  with two decades of research and evaluation to document past limitations and inform future improvements in the structure of education standards, as well as the content, implementation and ways to evaluate the public school system. States’ have typically updated their education standards every seven to ten years, spacing the revision process of each content area over successive years.
  •  Why? The changes are driven by a number of related factors that can occur over a relatively short period of time.  Since 2001 when the previous standards were adopted, for instance, new technological and scientific discoveries have been made; a good deal of research and evaluation has been conducted on education standards; new strategies for improving educational outcomes have been developed. Improvements to the 2010/2013 standards were informed by these bodies of research.

Additionally, society’s demands on youth and our public schools change from decade to decade. In 1920s, only half the school-age population even attended school. In the 1960s, teachers and students were asked to put the Civil Rights Act in place - outlawing discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women.  Not until the 1970s, were public schools expected to prevent ALL kids from dropping out (increasing 12th grade graduation rates from 65% to %100) – regardless of students learning and behavior challenges associated with poverty, language or disability. Public schools have always been expected to embrace society’s challenges, typically without adequate resources – from feeding hungry children, to screening all youth for vision and hearing needs, to preventing bullies and violence, to teaching values, preserving the arts and promoting general health (proper exercise, diet, hygiene).

The present focus on college and career readiness has a lot to do with the fact that the percentage of unskilled jobs in the U.S. labor market, attainable by young people with high school diplomas or less, have been on a steady decline from over 60% of the jobs in the 1950s, to less than 20% today. High school dropouts (formerly known as 8th grade graduates) can no longer find jobs with pensions in factories that support a family of four. At present, eight out of every ten jobs in the U.S. are classified as middle or highly skilled, requiring at least some postsecondary education or training.6

  • Nature of Change. One of the pivotal improvements to the current education standards can be characterized as ‘depth over breadth’.  In other words, the current standards have a greater focus on key concepts and processes, by prioritizing specific standards at designated grade levels.  This change is a direct response to criticism of the past: too many education standards led to superficial coverage of large amounts of content, unintentionally leaving insufficient time to explore most standards with any depth.


Who Contributed to the Development of the Common Core?

Development of the CCSS was informed by decades of states experiences with creating and implementing education standards, as well as from leading international models and rigorous educational research. The initiative was a states-led effort, launched several years ago by governors and state commissioners of education through membership in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). To write the standards, the NGA Center and CCSSO brought together content experts, teachers, researchers and others. This group received nearly 10,000 comments on the standards during two public comment periods beginning in 2009. Comments, many of which helped shape the final version of the Common Core State Standards, came from teachers, parents, school administrators and other citizens concerned with education policy.7 For more for information about development of the CCSS, see these briefs on the criteria and considerations.8 Kansans were active participants in the extensive development and review process, contributing substantively to the Common Core reading and math standards.


Education Standards and Reauthorization of the Federal Education Act

The federal education act was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007, but has received little attention from lawmakers in Washington, D.C. until just recently (July 2013).  The Act was first passed in 1965 under the name of Elementary and Secondary Education Act and has been reauthorized six times, most recently in 2001 when it was renamed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)9 While reauthorization remains pending as of September 2013, Kansas State Board of Education expects to have full NCLB waiver status by the end of 2013.  The notion of state education standards were first incorporated into the federal education act in 1994 under President Clinton and then again in 2001 under President Bush. This policy change followed nearly two decades of effort to strengthen K-12 education by states governors, educators, business leaders, and parents from across the country (see History of Standards-based Education Reform;  National Education Goals Panel archives; Goals 2000: Educate America  Act of 1994).    


Status of Implementation

To date, over 45 states have adopted the standards, in addition to the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoan Islands, US Virgin Islands and the Anchorage, AK School District.  Click here for Interactive Map


Additional Resources & References

KSDE CCSSI: Most Common Parent Questions;  Kansas Common Core Standards Fact Sheet (2011-2012); KSDE Fact Sheet:  Data Collection and the Common CorePTA Parent Resource GuideState Specific Tools