Common Core Confusion

By | 2016-10-29T11:36:45+00:00 May 10th, 2012|

The more that I work with and through the Common Core Standards, the more I realize just how confusing they can be – even for those of us who work with them on a daily basis.  You would think that by narrowing our focus to make a “common” set of standards, we would be less confused.

Think again.

The trouble with Common Core for many districts right now is in the translation of what is coming to what we currently have.  Most districts do NOT need to start from scratch and re-write their whole curriculum.  Instead, districts need to examine the new standards and align what they are using now with what is coming through a Gap Analysis.  After that process is complete, you have a much clearer view of what you need to add, take out or shift to best meet the Common Core Standards within your district.

However, the biggest stumbling block that I am finding is in the language of Common Core itself – especially for Arts teachers.  That’s because what we Arts teachers call a “standard” is actually called a “domain” in the Math Common Core and an Grade-specific standard within an Anchor Standard in English/Language Arts Common Core.  No wonder people are confused!  The language for the same item across three content areas is completely different.  The solution that we are finding helpful in our district is to provide an overarching framework for teachers which provides 3 different levels:

1.) The Broad Overview.  This level contains the Essential Question/Anchor Standard/Domain within your content area.

2.) Narrowed Focus.  This second level contains the Standard/Grade-Specific Standard/Cluster within your content area.

3.) The Nitty-Gritty.  This third level contains the Outcomes/Content Overviews/Standards within your content area.

By labeling each level and placing each content’s “language” within that umbrella, everyone can finally get on the same page and compare apples to apples when completing their Gap Analysis’ and Curriculum Maps.  What’s important is to recognize that we are all talking about the same things – we just need to acknowledge that the words may be different and create a universal way that works for your district to decode their meaning.


About the Author:

Susan Riley is the founder and President of She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan
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