Common Core: What you need to know

As districts across the country work toward implementing the Common Core State Standards — an effort to implement rigorous, national K-12 standards for math and reading — what changes can students, teachers, parents, and policymakers expect?

In addition to anticipating some of the challenges that lie ahead for education stakeholders — including issues of testing costs, an influx of "Common Core aligned" resources, and the potential political fallout — AEI education scholars' extensive analysis and commentary on the Common Core will offer policymakers, parents, teachers, and school leaders responses to the practical and political questions surrounding the effort.

To help you navigate the complexities of the Common Core and its implementation, we offer these selected readings and multimedia from AEI's Education Policy team:


Four questions about Common Core implementation Rick Hess | Education Week, September 4, 2013

"With the Common Core push in full swing, a bunch of intriguing issues are about to start cropping up."

Two cheers and two concerns for the Common Core's Jason Zimba Michael McShane | AEIdeas, August 6, 2013

"While Common Core proponents may be well positioned to thwart claims made by think tanks or university-based researchers, how well positioned are they to keep these other resources out of classrooms?"

Why the Common Core became a political football Rick Hess | Education Week, August 5, 2013

"Of course, the Tea Party was going to fight anything that smacked of federal intervention in local schools, and of course the Republicans were going to try to punch Obama in the nose."

Three easy steps to understanding the Common Core, Lauren Aronson | AEIdeas, July 18, 2013

"In recent months, the Republican National Committee and the American Federation of Teachers have both raised serious concerns, albeit for very different reasons, about the standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia."

This week in missing the point on the Common Core, Michael McShane | AEIdeas, July 12, 2013

"States are not ready because they are still figuring out how to integrate new accountability exams into their current teacher and school evaluations systems."

Seven observations on Duncan's Common Core address, Rick Hess | Education Week, June 26, 2013

"When US Secretary of Education is one of the most prominent and vocal champions of Common Core, it makes it harder to argue that this is a state-driven exercise."

A playbook for the Common Core'ites: Part I, Rick Hess | Education Week, June 18, 2013

"I've long said that the Common Core strikes me as an intriguing effort that could do much good. So, why am I not on board? Because I think the effort has a good chance of stalling out over the next four or five years."

A playbook for the Common Core'ites: Part II, Rick Hess | Education Week, June 20, 2013

"Standards and assessments are so integral to schooling that a train wreck here will have all kinds of unfortunate consequences."

Coming full circle on the Common Core, Michael McShane | AEIdeas, June 14, 2013

"The purpose of this series was simply to point out some of the spots of friction, the kinks in the garden hose, that run the risk of stifling the endeavor. Politics, governance, accountability policy, teacher preparation, and professional development, technology — all of these need to work together with the Common Core if it is going to be successful."

Understanding the chiefs for change on Common-Core accountability 'hiatus', Rick Hess | Education Week, May 30, 2013

"Rhetoric around the Common Core has been ramping up recently, with calls from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times to either abandon or support the effort."

Education reform and Common Core: Should we pause high-stakes accountability?, Michael McShane | AEIdeas, May 23, 2013

"Those with a long enough memory remember that when Arne Duncan announced the federal grants to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core, he promised that they would do everything under the sun."

Common Core and the high-stakes 'hiatus', Rick Hess | Education Week, May 23, 2013

" Among other things, the "no-hiatus" crowd is concerned that, if states once start to retreat from NCLB-style accountability systems, it'll be tough to get those systems back in place."

Common-Core turbulence: Inevitable or preventable?, Rick Hess | Education Week, May 10, 2013

"Amidst all this, there are two questions that I've been asked a lot lately. Was this turbulence inevitable? Is there anything that Common Core proponents can do, or could have done, about it?"

Developing standardized tests: What's $330 million among friends?, Michael McShane | AEIdeas, April 29, 2013

"As part of President Obama's hallmark education program, the Race to the Top competitive grant competition, the Department of Education allocated four-year grants totaling $330 million to two consortia of states to develop assessments aligned to the new Common Core state standards."

Love it or hate it, the Common Core is here to stay (for now), Laurent Aronson | AEIdeas, March 15, 2013

"On both sides of the aisle, you’ll find Common Core friends and foes. To date, education stakeholders have largely focused on Common Core Standards Initiative pros and cons: Are these standards really more rigorous?"

Standards for success: Challenges and opportunities for the Common Core on the ground, Allison Kimmel | AEIdeas, January 4, 2013

"The Common Core — the state-driven set of reading and math standards for K-12 education — and its accompanying exams aim to change the mismatch that prohibits students from being held accountable for the kind of writing expected of them in college and future careers."

The Common Core Kool-Aid, Rick Hess | Education Week, November 30, 2012

"The Common Core is a different exercise from those earlier cure-alls, and it might play out differently. I honestly don't know where the truth lies."

How Sec. Duncan helped the teachers unions take out Tony Bennett, Rick Hess | Education Week, November 7, 2012

"When you talk to Republican legislators in red states, however, many think Obama and Secretary Duncan have their grubby thumbprints all over the Common Core."

An ominous political trend for Common Core-ites, Rick Hess | Education Week, August 15, 2012

"The easiest course for states that have adopted Common Core standards but have second thoughts is to leave 'em be, and then simply not follow through."

The fate of the Common Core: The view from 2022, Rick Hess | Education Week, March 26, 2012

"The Department of Education's decision to link federal funding to the Core in its Race to the Top program, its NCLB waiver effort, and its "ESEA blueprint," and the provision of $350 million in federal funds for Core-related tests, all alienated anti-Washington conservatives who would have remained neutral if the question had merely concerned states collaborating to set standards in math and English language arts."

Is anybody up for defending the Common Core math standards?, Rick Hess | Education Week, September 6, 2011

"Common Core advocates accomplished a remarkable feat in getting 40-odd states to adopt the new standards."

How big a change are the Common Core standards?, Rick Hess | Education Week, June 1, 2011

"Recent back-and-forth over the Common Core has focused on the federal role. Receiving less attention is the question of just how big a shift the Common Core standards represent."

'Are you serious?' Yep, they are , Rick Hess | Education Week, May 17, 2011

"While Dems could imagine that they'd accomplish health care reform by jamming it through and then letting it set over time, I don't think even advocates imagine that common standards and assessments will hold up if they become the subject of a fierce, partisan dispute."

Common Core: Giving happy lie to the 'reform consensus', Rick Hess | Education Week, May 16, 2011

"These reformers imagine broad sentiment that anyone who's not a union toadie agrees to a whole host of "reformy" things, including the Common Core, sanctity of value-added measures, race-based accountability metrics, niftiness of turnarounds, magic of Race to the Top, and so on."

PARCC chair Chester on the anti-Common Core manifesto, Rick Hess | Education Week, May 11, 2011

"Within hours of Monday's post, Mitch Chester sent me the kind of measured justification of the Common Core process that's been sorely lacking."

Common Core: Now it gets interesting, Rick Hess | Education Week, May 9, 2011

"It isn't yet clear whether this document marks the emergence of anything more than scattered opposition, but it does signal that the Common Core effort is about to become more contentious."

Can the Common Core coalition keep its Finlandophiles in check?, Rick Hess | Education Week, April 5, 2011

"Well, we're in the early stages of watching that coalition potentially unravel. It hasn't yet, and it may not, but there's now at least a fifty-fifty chance that the Common Core effort will dissolve into an ideological clash."

Common Core vs. charter schooling: Waving that yellow flag , Rick Hess | Education Week, February 15, 2011

"A particularly compelling example is posed by the looming collision that might occur when the unfolding effort comes to the attention of charter schoolers and school choice enthusiasts."

Is Common Core running off the rails already? Waving the caution flag , Rick Hess | Education Week, February 17, 2011

"I was struck, though, by a seeming disregard for the policy or practical impact of this whole enterprise."

Should conservatives cuddle up to the Common Core? My take on the Finn-Petrilli v. Greene debate , Rick Hess | Education Week, July 27, 2010

"Even if persuaded by the Finn-Petrilli case as to the substantive merits of the Common Core, one must survey the complex politics of implementation and see a happy path through its uneven landscape."

Common standards: Questions about the road ahead , Rick Hess | Education Week, March 12, 2010

"Even when I was in the classroom or writing about instructional practice, I was never all that confident I could distinguish good standards from bad."

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