• Common Core Standards and 21st Century Skills


    Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade.  Most industrialized countries have National standards and/or a National curriculum and assessment system.  In the US, each state determines standards for its students.  In California, the State Board of Education decides on the standards for all students, from kindergarten through high school.


    The Council of the Chief State School Officers and the National Governors’ Association commissioned the development of Common Core Standards to address the disparate standards across the states, high remediation rates in colleges, need to be globally competitive understanding that the jobs of today and tomorrow require a different skill set, and the fact that efficient collaboration among states would be facilitated by a common set of high quality academic learning standards.  Expert teams examined the standards of the most academically successful countries and then wrote the standards, completing their work on Mathematics and Language Arts Common Core Standards in 2009.  The standards were designed to better prepare American students for success in college, career, and the competitive global economy.  States had the right to decide to adopt them or not.  States that decided to adopt them also had the right to change some standards or adopt additional State Standards to comprise up 15% of the standards.   In the Common Core Standard adoption process, California added supporting standards to complete the unique picture necessary for California students.  

    The Common Core strengthened the existing California standards with a more integrated approach. For example, literacy standards that focus on reading and writing instruction are addressed not only during Language Arts instruction, but also during history/social studies, science, and technology.  In mathematics, standards were added to demonstrate a stronger emphasis on number sense and algebraic thinking. 

    Since 2010, at least 45 states, including California, have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and Math. Having the consistent, high quality standards helps all students get a good education, even if they change schools or move to a different state. Like an orchestra learning a challenging new symphony, bringing these standards to life in our schools will take time and energy, and the costs must be managed over time.  These standards provide every part of our education system the same sheet music – with the clear goals of career and college readiness for all. California is putting these standards to work, using them as the foundation for remodeling our education system, while keeping the best of the current California standards, keeping a clear focus on the key knowledge and skills students need for their future.  Full implementation of the new standards and assessments is expected by 2014-15. 

    Mathematics:  The main shifts in Mathematics are Focus, Coherence, and Rigor.  The approach of the 1997 California State Standards approach was to teach students number and operation, measurement and geometry, algebra and functions, statistics and probability every year in all grade levels K-12.  The Common Core math standards are placed at the grade levels at which students are generally best able to learn the specific skills.  Students will be making sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  There will be additional focus on reasoning skills and constructing and critiquing viable arguments.

    English Language Arts:  In addition to instruction in good literature, the main shifts in Language arts involve building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction and informational texts focusing on finding evidence from text for reading and writing, and regular practice with complex text and academic vocabulary. 

    In Bennett Valley, our teachers work very hard to deliver high quality instruction to all students.  We are increasing our focus on and integrating the 21st Century skills (Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity and our fifth C--Compassion) now, while working toward a gentle implementation of Common Core over the three-year period.  The 2012-13 school year was our awareness year during which our staffs became acquainted with Common Core.  The 2013-2014 school year is our transition year with full implementation in 2014-15.   We have our 21 Century Skills team and our Math Expert teams in place helping to better acquaint teachers and lead the implementation in every grade level.  During our transition year, you may not notice too many changes, but there will be an increased focus on the 21st Century skills—collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking, and compassion.   Also, you will be seeing evidence of additional focus on problem solving in math. Additionally, you should see greater emphasis on student analysis of various strategies, as students explain their thinking-- why they selected a specific strategy and how that worked to solve the problem in question.  In Language Arts, our Treasures Language Arts series integrates literature and non-fiction text, pairing fiction and non-fiction (Charlotte’s Web with a science lesson on spiders, for one example).  You may see evidence of increased integration of the subjects as well as even more emphasis on writing.


    Resources for Parents:  The following Web resources provide the most current information from the California Department of Education (CDE) Web Site and are continuously updated.

    You can see the standards for your child’s grade level in the guide:  Common Core Standards:  K-8 California's Common Core Standards Parent Handbook:


    This handbook, created by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) in consultation with the California State PTA, gives parents an introduction to California's CCSS and a summary of what students are expected to learn as they advance from kindergarten through grade eight. 


    Smarter Balanced Assessments:  This year will be the last administration of the California State Standards tests.  Beginning in Spring 2015, there will be new assessments, called Smarter Balanced Assessment, for the new standards.   California is a governing member of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). The consortium is developing new tests that will measure student progress toward career and college readiness. You may learn more about the new tests and try out sample items by clicking on the following site: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/smarterbalanced.asp.


    The Common Core State Standards Systems Implementation Plan for California is a living document approved by the State Board of Education in March 2012. The plan, available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc/, identifies the major phases and activities involved in implementing the CCSS and serves as the blueprint for remodeling the education system to support student success in career and college.

    Want more info?

    Click here to read more about the Common Core Standards Myths and Facts

    Click here to read about Deeper Learning and the Common Core.

  • Smarter Balanced State Tests

    In 2015, the California State STAR test will be replaced by the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

    The Smarter Balanced Practice Tests are now available for grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 in English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics. The Practice Tests provide a preview of the Smarter Balanced assessments, but do not reflect the full range of content that students may encounter on the actual assessments.

    To find out more information and take the practice test, visit the link below:


  • Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core Standards- English Language Arts and Mathematics

    The Council of the Great City Schools' parent roadmaps in English Language Arts and Math provide guidance to parents about what their children will be learning and how they can support that learning in grades K-8. These parent roadmaps for each grade level also provide three-year snapshots showing how selected standards progress from year to year so that students will be college and career ready upon their graduation from high school.

    *The Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core State Standards may be reprinted or posted online for non-commercial purposes without the Council’s prior consent.

  • Key Ideas for Parents Regarding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

    Thinking Deeply:  The common core emphasizes critical thinking.  It requires students to analyzed more, discuss more, evaluate more, justify more, and explain their thinking in greater depth in both math, reading and writing. 

    Thinking deeply is hard!  It is ok for students to struggle a bit.  Support your child in persevering through a difficult task or problem—their depth of thought increases as a result of their working through a productive struggle to a positive result!

    Integrated Learning:  Problem solving in the world outside of school rarely happens through the use of a single discipline or subject area.  Students need to learn and practice multi-disciplinary solutions to problems.  The Common Core State Standards emphasize learning across disciplines.  Students use their math skills in science.  They analyze word problems in math, and they write to explain their thinking across the subject areas.  The write to explain why they selected a particularly strategy and how it works, also whether a different strategy might have been more efficient or effective.  Students work effectively together.  They in different settings, utilize various learning strategies, and use a variety of tools.

    Demonstrating How and Why They Know:  The Common Core Standards will expect students to be able to explain and make arguments to justify their thinking.  CCSS emphasizes and requires that student provide evidence as proof of their knowledge and as support for reasoning.  Students still need and will receive high quality instruction in the basics and building blocks of learning.  Memorized facts within math, reading, and spelling are still necessary for academic success, however, there will be significantly less time spent on worksheets, timed tests and drills.  The focus will increase in nurturing students to demonstrate the route to understanding, seeing connections between parts, and to determining the reasoning behind solutions.

    Ten Ways You Can Support Your Child’s Learning at Home

    (Many of which you already do!)

    1. Ask Why:  Ask your child why, or to explain his/her thinking when he she makes a particular choice
    2. Model:  Demonstrate that you have reasons for your decisions.  Explain your thinking
    3. Encourage questions and seek answers together
    4. Discuss:  Explore answers and discuss alternatives
    5. Explain and Talk about issues:  Have conversations with your child about age appropriate concerns or problems in the neighborhood or community and then discuss possible solutions together.   
    6. Compare:  Compare and contrast various topics of interest—music, sports, games, foods, etc.
      Look for Patterns and Discuss them.
    7. Describe and Categorize:  Have your child describe and categorize items in your child’s room and in the house, yard, etc.
    8. Share Your Values:  Let your child know your values (such doing one’s best, perseverance, being kind to others…)  and discuss the values that help a person succeed in school and in life.  Welcome and respond to your child’s questions about values.
    9. Encourage and Celebrate opinions from your children when they support their opinions with evidence and reasoning.
    10. Challenge yourself to try one of two of these that you have not yet tried.