Common Core Standards – What They Are, What They’re All About

By Dave Steele, Director of School Partnerships

The debate over the Common Core standards, and what they mean for American K-12 education, may seem like a recent phenomenon. But, the hard work of shifting curriculum, instruction and assessments to meet the new standards (the complex process known as “Common Core implementation”) has been happening under the public’s radar screen for the past few years. Among those who do the day-to-day work of educating students, the Common Core themselves are a given, and the work to realign schools to meet the standards is the focus. Among the public at large, however, there is widespread confusion about what the Common Core standards are and what they represent. This excellent article by Erin Richards in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from March 4, 2014, does a great job separating fact from fiction. 

Fact vs Fiction

All schools in Wisconsin, including PAVE Partner Schools, have been working on shifting to the Common Core since their adoption about three years ago. The shift in curriculum, instruction and assessments to meet the Common Core standards has been a primary focus of fellow school support organization Schools that Can Milwaukee, and PAVE has worked with school leaders and boards of directors to understand the impact of the standards on schools’ planning and budgeting. Our work in this area goes back to 2011, when we were invited to meet with the national authors of the Common Core at a small gathering of education leaders assembled by the GE Foundation.

In simplest terms, the Common Core standards mean that schools will be expected to teach and assess how well students are able to think critically. Rather than recite facts by memorization, students will be asked to explain how they arrived at their answers. This is a huge shift in how kids are taught and tested, and represents a “generational moment” in K-12 education.

Want to dig deeper? Here is information about Common Core State Standards from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.


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