Common Core 101

Purpose of Course  showclose

This course is designed to prepare Saylor’s consulting educators to build K-12 subject courses that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects and Mathematics.  You will begin this course by gaining an overview of what the set of Common Core State Standards is, why Saylor is focused on developing courses around the Common Core State Standards, and the main benchmarks for ensuring that a course is compliant with the Common Core State Standards.  In unit 2 of this course, you will look at the Common Core State Standards in detail and identify key takeaways from them.  In unit 3 of this course, you will explore how to develop content that meets the Common Core State Standards and how to integrate the standards through the development of learning assignments based on specific texts and activities.  In unit 4 of this course, you will take a look at the different assessment strategies often used for Common Core courses and determine how to measure learning outcomes and student progress in these courses.  In the final unit of this course, you will explore some additional resources for understanding and implementing the Common Core State Standards in your own courses.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to Common Core 101.  Below, please find some general information on this course and its requirements.

Course Designer: Angelyn Pinter

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online educational materials, as well as original content developed by The Saylor Foundation.

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned readings and materials.  Please note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through and review all the assigned materials in this course.  In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the Final Exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 8 hours to complete.  Each unit of this course includes “time advisories” that list the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit and assignment.  Note that some units feature time advisories that include the estimated time it should take to create the relevant courseware described in the unit.

Tips/Suggestions: This course presents an overview of the Common Core State Standards and points you to many of the most comprehensive resources available on these standards.  Please read through each unit to access these resources.  While you should examine the sections on your discipline (either ELA/Literacy or Mathematics) in closer detail, please review the other sections as well in order to gain an understanding of what is expected for students across all areas.  For Social Studies, Science, Mathematics and other Technical subject educators, please note that the ELA/Literacy standards include sections on reading and writing assignments in these subject areas.

 
A version of this course is also available in iTunes U.
Preview the course in your browser or view our entire suite of iTunes U courses.  

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Explain the focus of the Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy and Mathematics.
  • Select teaching materials and methods that meet the Common Core State Standards.
  • Use text exemplars to select appropriate texts for Common Core-compliant courses.
  • Create activities and question-and-answer assignments based on sample performance tasks.
  • As necessary, create original content that incorporates the Common Core State Standards.
  • Integrate the Common Core literacy initiative into technical subjects by examining the Common Core State Standards for reading and writing in technical subjects.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability and permission to install plug-ins and/or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft Office files and documents (.doc, .docx, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: What Are The Common Core State Standards?  

    In the first unit of this course, you will learn what the Common Core State Standards are, how they were developed, why Saylor uses these standards, and the main focal points of the multi-state initiative to implement the Common Core State Standards.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 What Are the Common Core State Standards?  

    The Common Core State Standards are a set of K-12 educational standards that are the result of a recent collective movement by state leaders to improve college and career readiness among high school graduates. The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (the NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the movement to create a new set of standards for determining high-school graduates’ preparedness for college and career tracks.  A draft of the college and career standards was released in July 2009.  From these standards, more detailed expectations for each K-12 grade level subsequently were developed, incorporating the best existing state standards, the input of educators and education leaders, and feedback from the public.  The resulting Common Core State Standards have currently been finalized for grades K-12 in the subject areas of ELA/Literacy and Mathematics. Currently, 45 states have endorsed the Common Core State Standards and have at least some implementation efforts in place.  Forty-four of these states have expressed a commitment to implementing assessments based on the new standards for the 2014-2015 school year in addition to replacing their previous individual standards.  The movement toward adopting the Common Core State Standards represents a rare, cross-state consensus in United States education.   

  • 1.2 Why Common Core?  

    The Saylor Foundation has chosen to build its K-12 curriculum around the Common Core State Standards because these standards represent the most significant collaboration among educational leaders towards nation-wide consistency in educational standards.  In addition, these standards have gained widespread support and implementation.  They incorporate many of the current best teaching practices in K-12 education, aimed toward preparing students for college and/or their future careers and encouraging common understanding among parents, teachers, and students about what is expected at each grade level.  The standards encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and increased literacy.  We believe that open access to comprehensive courses built around these standards provides a valuable resource to K-12 students and educators in both public and alternative education sectors worldwide – in part because these standards were informed by educational standards in other top-performing countries, such as Singapore, Finland, Japan, and Canada.  As such, we believe that a curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards is relevant for students located anywhere in the world.  

  • 1.3 How Were the Common Core State Standards Developed?  

    The Common Core State Standards were developed using the collaborative input of educators and educational experts and leaders across many states.  They were built using elements of the best existing state standards as well as evidence-based educational studies.  After the initial drafts of the standards were developed, they were released for public comment in March 2010.  Feedback from the public was considered and subsequently incorporated into the final standards, which were released in June 2010.

    • Reading: Common Core State Standards Initiative’s “Myths vs. Facts”

      Link: Common Core State Standards Initiative’s “Myths vs. Facts” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the webpage in its entirety.  Since the Common Core State Standards were released, there have been a lot of questions raised about the content, quality, and implementation of the standards.  This webpage answers many of those questions, provides some context for understanding the development and content of the standards, and addresses common misconceptions about the standards. 
       
      This reading should take you approximately 10 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.4 What Are the Main Themes of the Common Core State Standards?  

    The main goals of the Common Core State Standards are to establish the knowledge and skills necessary for college and career readiness among high school graduates and to work toward developing these skillsets at each grade level.  Overall, the Common Core State Standards stress literacy and critical thinking, requiring students to think deeply about subjects and ideas.  Specifically, the ELA/Literacy standards focus on increasing literacy and critically examining both fiction and non-fiction texts at all levels of K-12 study.  The ELA/Literacy standards also include grade-level guidelines for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and other aspects of language communication.  In the area of Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards emphasize cultivating an understanding of key mathematical principles and overarching ideas, such as developing abstract and quantitative reasoning.  The Mathematics standards also cover key conceptual categories – such as functions, statistics, and probability – and encourage students to apply mathematical thinking to real-world challenges. 

    • Reading: Student Achievement Partners’ “Common Core Shifts”

      Link: Student Achievement Partners’ “Common Core Shifts” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the webpage’s descriptions of the three shifts for ELA/Literacy and Mathematics.  This document describe the three main ways in which the Common Core State Standards differ from most previous standards in each discipline.  These are the major ideas that should guide your development of courses that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
       
      This reading should take you approximately 10 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Student Achievement Partners’ “Description of the Common Core Shifts”

      Link: Student Achievement Partners’ “Description of the Common Core Shifts” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read an expanded description of the Common Core shifts for ELA/Literacy and Mathematics.  This reading provides you with a more detailed explanation of the ways in which the Common Core State Standards may differ from previous educational frameworks.
       
      This reading should take you approximately 10 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: The materials created by Student Activity Partners are open source and available at no cost.

  • Unit 2: Examining The Common Core State Standards  

    In this unit you will explore the Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy and Mathematics in greater detail.  Then, you will summarize the key points and main themes of the standards for each subject area.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Examining the Common Core State Standards in Greater Detail  

    The Common Core State Standards map out the necessary skills and concepts that should be learned in each grade in order to lead a student toward college and career readiness.  Key “anchor standards” offer clear areas of focus based on college and career readiness.  These anchor standards then are broken down into detailed and specific learning outcomes for each grade level and subject area.  Rather than dictate specific texts that must be covered, the standards generally focus on specific knowledge and skills that should be developed.  For example, one of the key ELA/Literacy standards for students in grades 9 and 10 is to “determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.”[1]  The ELA/Literacy standards also provide a model to determine text complexity to ensure that the texts students are using are appropriately rigorous.  In Mathematics, the focus of the standards is on the coherence of overall mathematical practices.  Standards are broken down as specifically as possible – for example, one Mathematics standard states that students should be able to “graph linear and quadratic functions and show intercepts, maxima, and minima”[2] – while also emphasizing the integration of overarching mathematical principles, such as how to “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.”[3]  



    [1]National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers, “Common Core State Standards for Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects,” National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C. (2010): 9-10:2, accessed September 21, 2012, http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/2.
    [2]National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers, “Common Core State Standards for Mathematics,” National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C. (2010): HSF.IF.C.7A, accessed September 21, 2012, http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/HSF/IF/C/7/a.
    [3] National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers, “Common Core State Standards for Mathematics,” National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C. (2010): MP1, accessed September 21, 2012, http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice.

  • 2.2 ELA/Literacy Standards and Key Themes  

    The standards for ELA/Literacy include an emphasis on literacy in the subjects of English Language Arts as well as history, social studies, science, and technical subjects – thus stressing literacy across the K-12 curriculum and teaching students to read and analyze non-fiction texts as well as works of fiction.  More specifically, the ELA/Literacy standards focus on the areas of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language (meaning grammar, usage, and style), with a particular emphasis on building vocabulary and media literacy in these areas.  Overall, the ELA/Literacy standards are designed to build in complexity and difficulty as a student progresses through each grade level.

  • 2.3 Mathematics Standards and Key Themes  

    For high school students, the Common Core Mathematics standards are organized by conceptual categories.  These categories are: Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Modeling, Geometry, and Statistics and Probability.  The Mathematics standards provide an overview and key concepts for each of these categories before drilling down into specific skills that should be learned in each category.  In addition, the Mathematics standards incorporate eight key practices for approaching Mathematics that are emphasized throughout all K-12 mathematics courses.  Known as the “Standards for Mathematical Practice,” these key practices are[1]:

    1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
    2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
    3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
    4. Model with mathematics.
    5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
    6. Attend to precision.
    7. Look for and make use of structure.
    8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.  



    [1]National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers, “Common Core State Standards for Mathematics,” National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C. (2010), accessed September 21, 2012, http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice.

  • Unit 3: Developing Content That Is Aligned With The Common Core State Standards  

    The main purpose of the Common Core State Standards is to provide a framework for what students should be learning at each grade level in order to prepare them for college and careers.  The standards do not prescribe specific texts that must be used, specific activities for students, or mandated unit structures for courses.  However, the ELA/Literacy standards do provide lists of example texts that demonstrate the appropriate level of complexity that should be mastered at each grade level.  In Mathematics, a coherent progression in complexity is established, with guidelines for various methods of grouping the standards depending on whether a traditional or accelerated approach is desired.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Content for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects  

    The Common Core State Standards provide example texts that serve as reference points for the level and variety of texts that should be read in each grade level.  The greatest emphasis in the ELA/Literacy standards is the careful examination of a text and the development of critical thinking skills in approaching a text.  Students are encouraged to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction texts, and the responsibility for comprehensive literacy education is shared among English language arts teachers as well as other subject-area teachers.

  • 3.2 Text Complexity in ELA/Literacy  

    One of the goals of the Common Core State Standards initiative for ELA/Literacy is to increase the complexity of texts that students are reading and to ensure that the texts students read at each grade level are appropriately challenging.  Some useful tools have been developed to calibrate and evaluate text complexity; these tools are described in comprehensive detail in the readings below.

  • 3.3 Content for Informational Texts  

    One of the main ways in which Common Core State Standards may differ from existing standards is in their emphasis on ensuring that students are reading non-fiction, informational texts as well as works of fiction.  The Common Core State Standards make clear that the responsibility for developing literacy is shared among all subject teachers and that students should be developing their ability to read and analyze non-fiction works of increasing complexity.  In order to do this, the Common Core initiative has developed examples of informational texts of appropriate complexity for each grade level, as well as helpful methods for evaluating text complexity. 

  • 3.4 Text Complexity in Informational Texts  

    Along with the Common Core State Standards initiative’s focus on increasing the complexity of literary texts that students read, the initiative also emphasizes the reading of appropriately challenging informational texts in all subjects and at each grade level.  Educators in non-fiction subject areas may be less accustomed to evaluating text complexity, so additional guidance has been provided by Common Core State Standards initiative for assessing the complexity level of informational texts.

  • 3.5 Content for Mathematics  

    The goals of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics are to improve achievement in mathematics, to present math concepts in a more unified and coherent way, and to develop increased mathematical understanding.  The “Standards for Mathematical Practice,” outlined in subunit 2.3 of this course, are unifying principles for approaching mathematical problems that apply to all grade levels.  In addition, the high school mathematics standards are grouped into six concept areas – Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Modeling, Geometry, and Statistics and Probability – which can be combined in various ways according to different content goals.  The Common Core State Standards strive to make the progression of math by grade level more logical and to cover fewer subjects in greater depth.

    Note: In Common Core-aligned mathematics curriculum, the term Problem is used to describe materials in which students are required to learn new concepts.  The term Exercise is used to describe materials in which students are required to practice concepts they have already learned in order build mastery in those concepts.

  • 3.6 How Do the Common Core State Standards Mathematics Concepts Line Up with Conventional Math Course Sequences?  

    The Common Core State Standards for high school mathematics are organized by concept group – Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Modeling, Geometry, and Statistics and Probability – as opposed to a traditional course progression sequence such as Algebra I, Algebra II, etc.  However, the appendix to the Common Core State Standards offers suggestions for how to integrate these concept groups into traditional, accelerated, and integrated course-progression models.

  • 3.7 Evaluating the Quality of Resources  

    It can be difficult to determine the quality of available resources and texts for K-12 courses – even those that are purportedly in alignment with Common Core State Standards.  This is due to the increased need for Common Core-compliant resources and the motivation on the part of publishers to reuse existing materials.  As a result, some of the educators involved with developing the Common Core State Standards have established guidelines for determining whether resources are genuinely aligned with the new standards.  At Saylor, we will use the guidelines in the below resources to ensure that our courses meet all the educational goals set forth in the Common Core State Standards.  

  • Unit 4: Assessing And Measuring Student Progress Towards Achieving The Goals Of The Common Core State Standards  

    In this unit we will look at the development of assessments that are intended to test student mastery of the Common Core State Standards as well as methods for measuring student progress towards mastery of the standards.  In addition, we will look at resources for developing educational activities, assessment questions, and sample performance tasks aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 Sample Performance Tasks  

    The recommended shifts in instructional focus that are prevalent within the Common Core State Standards also necessitate a shift in the types of questions, activities, and assessments in which students participate.  One of the major differences is the need for teachers to ask more questions that are text- and evidence-based.  Examples of performance tasks for each area are embedded in the appendices to the Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy, available in the readings below.

  • 4.2 Assessment  

    The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a 23-state consortium working together to develop next-generation, Common Core-compliant K-12 assessments in ELA/Literacy and Mathematics.  The assessments are scheduled to be ready for the 2014-2015 school year.  In the interim, please use PARCC’s draft materials to guide the development of your own assessments.

  • Unit 5: Additional Resources  

    In the final unit of this course, you will explore some additional, optional resources that may be useful to you as you participate in Saylor’s course design process for your own assigned grade level/s and subject area/s.  Note that the content from these resources is supplemental and is not tested on the exam.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • Final Exam