Common Core Standards: State Adoptions and Implementation - dummies

Common Core Standards: State Adoptions and Implementation

By Jared Myracle

At the same time that the Common Core Standards were written, President Barack Obama announced a competitive grant program called Race to the Top, offering more than $4 billion in available funds. The grant sought to provide federal funding for education reform at the state level.

Among other criteria, the opportunity to receive a slice of this pie required states to revamp their academic standards. This included pursuing common standards backed by college and career readiness research with other states. Although states didn’t have to adopt Common Core Standards to be eligible for the grant, the fact that 48 states had agreed to contribute to the development of the standards certainly made them a viable option.

The process for adopting academic standards varies from state to state. In general, some combination of the state legislature, a body empowered by the state legislature or governor, and the state department of education is responsible for recommending and approving standards for use by schools and districts. As the Common Core Standards neared completion in 2010, conversations regarding adoption took place in a majority of states.

Common Core states

Most states adopted the Common Core Standards between 2010 and 2012. A majority of adopting states did so in 2010 to meet the timelines and specifications for common standards in the Race to the Top grant. However, not all states considering adoption of common standards took the same path. In fact, states pursued a few different options:

  • Adopting the standards verbatim: Verbatim adoption of the Common Core Standards means that a state adopts the Common Core Standards for mathematics, English language arts, and literacy without adding to or taking away any content. The standards for mathematics and English language arts provide learning expectations for those subjects, while the literacy standards set expectations for reading and writing skills for social studies, science, and technology.

  • Adding 15 percent: States that adopt the Common Core Standards have the option to add 15 percent to the total number of standards in a specific subject area. A state can decide to do this if adding content in certain grades or courses, or on certain subjects, is necessary. However, adopting states can’t choose to remove standards from the Common Core.

  • Deciding to go it alone: In order to qualify for the Race to the Top grant, states didn’t have to adopt the Common Core Standards. States had the option of developing and adopting common standards in conjunction with other states. With that option in place, some states opted to take alternative paths.

For information on what your state chose to do, check out your state’s website or

  • Starting on the standards: The process of implementing the standards depends on decisions made in each state. Some states may start teaching toward the standards all at once, while others may use a gradual phase-in approach. Having a good grasp on the approach being used in your state helps you better understand how to support the process at home. Reach out to your local district for more information.

  • Deciding on new books and materials: Because the Common Core Standards establish concepts and skills that are potentially different from previous state standards, school districts are likely to use new textbooks and materials as they start teaching to the standards. Getting familiar with these resources will assist you in helping your student tackle the new standards.

  • Developing a new assessment: A change in standards usually triggers a change in the assessment used to measure student progress. Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a 19-state consortium that’s developing K-12 assessments that measure achievement of Common Core Standards. Another consortium is developing what it calls Smarter Balanced Assessments; for more information, visit