FAQ: The Common Core in Washington’s Schools
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Common Core State Standards

FAQ: The Common Core in Washington’s Schools


What are learning standards?
Learning standards describe the skills and knowledge all students need to know so they can be successful. But standards don’t tell teachers how or what to teach. That’s up to the teachers, schools and districts.

What are Common Core State Standards?
Developed voluntarily and cooperatively by 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia, the Common Core State Standards offer schools, teachers, students and parents clear, understandable and consistent standards in math and English language arts. The Common Core standards define the knowledge and skills students need to be prepared for college and career opportunities. They are internationally competitive and evidence-based. Washington is one of more than 45 states to adopt the Common Core.

The standards replace Washington’s current math, Reading and Writing learning standards. They do not replace our state learning standards in other subjects.

What makes the standards unique is that they emphasize critical thinking and problem solving. The goal is to understand content rather than to memorize it.

Who developed the standards?
The Common Core standards were developed by the Council for Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. The two organizations convened a group to help write the standards. Washington state teachers, parents and administrators played an important role in this process.

Who determines state learning standards?
Each state determines its own learning standards for each subject. In addition to adopting the Common Core for math and English language arts, Washington has learning standards in other content areas, known as Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) and/or Grade-Level Expectations (GLEs). Learning standards are revised every four to six years, with input from educators, parents and community members from around our state.

Why are common standards important?
Having a common set of math and English Language Arts standards across states will result in efficiencies for students, teachers and state budgets. For example, a student moving from one state to another should have a fairly seamless transition because the standards will be the same for both states. Teacher training programs and curricular materials can be developed using the common standards.

When will this happen?
State Superintendent Randy Dorn adopted the Common Core State Standards in July 2011. Since then, OSPI has been introducing the standards to Washington teachers. During the next two years, they will be integrated into classrooms and will be assessed in the 2014–15 school year.

How will state testing change?
In the 2014–15 school year, the Smarter Balanced assessment system will measure how well students are learning the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. Results from the new tests can be used to show how students, schools and districts are performing. It will also allow states to be compared to each other using a standard tool.

Currently, students in grades 3–8 take the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP). Two new math and English language arts tests will replace the math, reading and writing portions of the MSP. (Fifth and eighth graders will continue to take the MSP in science.)

High school students now take the High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE) and End-of-Course (EOC) exams as graduation requirements for reading, writing and math. (A biology EOC is also a graduation requirement for the Class of 2015 and beyond.) Eleventh graders will take the Smarter Balanced math and English language arts tests to measure career and college readiness. The Legislature will decide whether the HSPE and/or EOCs will continue as graduation requirements for 10th graders.

For more information:




Math Standards Link
English Language Arts Standards Link

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