• Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Common Core and the New Essential Standards Curriculum Roll-out Curriculum


    *Q:  What are educational standards?

    Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.

    *Q:  Why do we need educational standards?

    We need standards to ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in postsecondary education and the workforce. Common standards will help ensure that students are receiving a high quality education consistently, from school to school and state to state. Common standards will provide a greater opportunity to share experiences and best practices within and across states that will improve our ability to best serve the needs of students.

    Standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but they do help teachers figure out the knowledge and skills their students should have so that teachers can build the best lessons and environments for their classrooms. Standards also help students and parents by setting clear and realistic goals for success. Standards are a first step – a key building block – in providing our young people with a high-quality education that will prepare them for success in college and work. Of course, standards are not the only thing that is needed for our children’s success, but they provide an accessible roadmap for our teachers, parents, and students.

    *Q:  How are educational standards determined now?

    Each state has its own process for developing, adopting, and implementing standards. As a result, what students are expected to learn can vary widely from state to state.

    Q:  We have been hearing a great deal in the news about the new North Carolina Standard Course of Study curriculum - Common Core and Essential Standards? What is this and when will it be implemented?
    The North Carolina Standard Course of Study are curriculum standards adopted by the NC state Board of Education; Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English/Language Arts and Literacy, and NC Essential Standards are for all other content areas beginning 2012-2013 school year. 

    *Q:  Is having common standards the first step toward nationalizing education?

    No. The Common Core State Standards are part of a state-led effort to give all students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. The federal government was not involved in the development of the standards. Individual states choose whether or not to adopt these standards.

    *Q:  What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative?

    The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt. The standards have been informed by the best available evidence and the highest state standards across the country and globe and designed by a diverse group of teachers, experts, parents, and school administrators, so they reflect both our aspirations for our children and the realities of the classroom. These standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce and that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. The standards are benchmarked to international standards to guarantee that our students are competitive in the emerging global marketplace.

    *Q:  Why is the Common Core State Standards Initiative important?

    We want to make sure that every child across the country is given the tools they need to succeed. High standards that are consistent across states provide teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations that everyone can work toward together. This will ensure that we maintain America’s competitive edge, so that all of our students are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with not only their peers here at home, but with students from around the world.

    These standards are a common sense first step toward ensuring our children are getting the best possible education no matter where they live.

    Of course, standards cannot single-handedly improve the quality of our nation’s education system, but they do give educators shared goals and expectations for their students. For example, the common core state standards will enable participating states to work together to:

    Make expectations for students clear to parents, teachers, and the general public;
    Encourage the development of textbooks, digital media, and other teaching materials aligned  to the standards;
    Develop and implement comprehensive assessment systems to measure student performance against the common core state standards that will replace the existing testing systems that too often are inconsistent, burdensome and confusing; and
    Evaluate policy changes needed to help students and educators meet the standards.*Q:  Who is leading the Common Core State Standards Initiative?

    Parents, teachers, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders, through their membership in the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) are leading the effort to develop a common core of state standards.

    In addition, CCSSO and the NGA Center have provided public comment periods for everyone to submit feedback on the draft standards documents. Those comments have been incorporated into the final standards.

    *Q:  How will states adopt the common core state standards?

    The process of state standards adoption depends on the laws of each state. Some states are adopting the standards through their state boards of education, while others are adopting them through their state legislatures.

    *Q:  Will the common core state standards keep local teachers from deciding what or how to teach?

    No. The Common Core State Standards are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others will decide how the standards are to be met. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms. Local teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards will continue to make decisions about curriculum and how their school systems are operated.

    *Q:  Were teachers involved in the creation of the standards?

    Yes. Teachers have been a critical voice in the development of the standards. The National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), among other organizations have been instrumental in bringing together teachers to provide specific, constructive feedback on the standards.

    We encourage teachers and practitioners to submit comments and feedback on the standards through the web site corestandards.org.

    *Q:  Does having common standards lead to dumbing down the standards across the board?

    Not at all. The Common Core State Standards have been built from the best and highest state standards in the country. They are evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and are informed by other top performing countries. They were developed in consultation with teachers and parents from across the country so they are also realistic and practical for the classroom. Far from looking for the “lowest common denominator,” these standards are designed to ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, are learning what they need to know to graduate from high school ready for college or a career.


     *Q:  By what criteria are the standards being developed?

    The standards are being developed by the following criteria: 

    • Aligned with expectations for college and career success
    • Clear, so that educators and parents know what they need to do to help students learn
    • Consistent across all states, so that students are not taught to a lower standard just because of where they live
    • Include both content and the application of knowledge through high-order skills
    • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards and standards of top-performing nations
    • Realistic, for effective use in the classroom
    • Informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society
    • Evidence and research-based criteria have been set by states, through their national organizations CCSSO and the NGA Center.*Q:  What grade levels will be included in the common core state standards?

    The English-language arts and math standards are for grades K-12. Research from the early childhood and higher education communities have also informed the development of the standards.

    *Q:  What does this work mean for students with disabilities and English language learners?

    Common standards will provide a greater opportunity for states to share experiences and best practices within and across states that can lead to an improved ability to best serve young people with disabilities and English language learners. Additionally, the K-12 English language arts and mathematics standards include information on application of the standards for English language learners and students with disabilities.

    Q:  How will the standards impact English Language Learners (ELL) and special education students?
    The Standards should be read as allowing for the widest possible range of students to participate fully from the outset, along with appropriate instructional modifications and testing accommodations to ensure maximum participation of student with special education needs.  No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom.  However, the Standards do provide clear signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness for all students.  The new standards will help teachers continue to develop and implement effective strategies for their students by providing benchmarks for skills and knowledge that their students should have by the end of the year. 

    *Q:  Why are the Common Core State Standards for just English-language arts and math?

    English-language arts and math were the first subjects chosen for the common core state standards because these two subjects are skills, upon which students build skill sets in other subject areas. They are also the subjects most frequently assessed for accountability purposes.

    Of course, other subject areas are critical to young people’s education and their success in college and careers. However, the NGA Center and CCSSO will not be developing standards in other subjects and are now focusing on implementing the standards in ELA and mathematics. 

    Q:  Is this a Johnston County Schools’ decision to change the curriculum?

     No, this is not a Johnston County Schools’ decision but a state-led decision based on the national implementation of the Common Core State Standards and College and Career Readiness standards.  In June 2010, North Carolina adopted the Common Core State Standards in K-12 Mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts.  With the adoption of these state-led education standards, NC is part of the first group of states to embrace clear and consistent goals for learning to prepare children for success in college and work.  

    Q:  How will classrooms look different? What can parents expect to see that is different?

    Students will have more open-ended questions, more technology and more real-world applications of what students learn in the classroom.
    There will be more rigorous curriculum in all of their classes.  Instead of recall of facts learned in a subject, students will have to know how to apply what they have learned and explain why their thought processes are correct. 
    Students and parents will see less use of textbooks and more instructional technology.  
    Q:  What is College and Career Promise?
    In today’s global economy, successful careers could require a two-or four-year degree, a diploma or nationally recognized job credential.

    Career & College Promise offers North Carolina high school students a clear path to success in college or in a career. The program is free to all students who maintain a “B” average and meet other eligibility requirements.

    Career & College Promise is Gov. Bev Perdue’s commitment to helping every qualified student gain access to an affordable college education and is ready for a career or college after high school. Eligible high school students can begin earning credit at a community college campus at no additional cost.

    Students can earn:                                                                            

    • College credit completely transferrable to all UNC System Institutions and many of NC’s Independent Colleges and Universities
    • A credential, certificate or diploma in a technical career
    • A high school diploma and two years of college credit in four to five years through innovative cooperative high schools (limited availability).

    Q:  Tell us about the changes in the math curriculum for middle school and high school? What does Common Core Math look like in middle school?

    The expectations for what students should know and be able to do are more rigorous in Common Core Math.  The middle school standards provide a preparation for high school mathematics. 
    Math instruction rests on the importance of “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education.  It describes the characteristics and habits of mind that all students who are mathematically proficient should be able to exhibit. 

    It also incorporates the 8 Standards for Mathematical Practices:

    • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
    • Reason abstractly and quantitatively
    • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
    • Model with mathematics
    • Use appropriate tools strategically
    • Attend to precision
    • Look for and make use of structure
    • Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning         

    What does Common Core Math look like in high school?

    The Standards for Mathematical Content for high school are divided into six conceptual categories:  Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Modeling, Geometry, and Statistics and Probability. Common Core Math will formalize and extend the mathematics that students learned in the middle grades. 
    High school standards allow students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges and to prepare them for college and career readiness. The math that students took in middle school will determine the math that they begin in high school. 

    • Student in 8th grade math who took will take Math I as a semester or yearlong course in 9th grade.
    • Students who took Algebra I in 8th grade will continue the math sequence that they began but will be instructed in the additional components of the Math I course within that sequence.

    Q:  Are schools doing away with Algebra and Geometry? 

    Algebra and Geometry are not going away, but the classes are being redesigned to be more rigorous, more integrated, and more applied.  Therefore, the new titles are being changed to Math I, Math II and Math III.  For students who demonstrate advanced ability, they will be provided with Common Core Plus in sixth and seventh grade or Math II Plus, Math III Plus in the high school.

    Q:  Will colleges accept these new courses?
    Yes, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is currently working closely with colleges and universities to communicate the new changes.

    *Q:  Will these standards incorporate both content and skills?

    Both content and skills are important and have been incorporated in the common core state standards. One of the criteria by which the standards will be evaluated is whether or not they include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order thinking skills.

    *Q:  What will these common core state standards mean for students?

    The standards will provide more clarity about and consistency in what is expected of student learning across the country. Until now, every state has had its own set of academic standards, meaning public education students at the same grade level in different states have been expected to achieve at different levels. This initiative will allow states to share information effectively and help provide all students with an equal opportunity for an education that will prepare them to go to college or enter the workforce, regardless of where they live. Common standards will not prevent different levels of achievement among students. Rather, they will ensure more consistent exposure to materials and learning experiences through curriculum, instruction, and teacher preparation among other supports for student learning. In a global economy, students must be prepared to compete with not only their American peers in the next state, but with students from around the world. These standards will help prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.

    *Q:  How will these standards impact teachers?

    The standards will provide important goals for teachers to ensure they are preparing students for success in college and the workforce. They will help teachers develop and implement effective strategies for their students by providing benchmarks for skills and knowledge that their students should have by the end of the year. The common core state standards will help colleges and professional development programs better prepare teachers; provide the opportunity for teachers to be involved in the development of assessments linked to these top-quality standards; allow states to develop and provide better assessments that more accurately measure whether or not students have learned what was taught; and guide educators toward curricula and teaching strategies that will give students a deep understanding of the subject and the skills they need to apply their knowledge.

    Assessment and Accountability

    *Q:  Will more standards mean more tests?

    No. For states that choose to adopt these common standards, having one set of standards will make it easier for states to pool information and resources to develop a shared set of high-quality tests to better evaluate student progress. The goal is not to have more tests, but to have smarter and better tests that help students, parents, and teachers.

    Q:  How does the Common Core Standards and the New Essential Standards impact testing?
    New assessments are in development to assess the Common Core in reading and math and Essential Standards in science. The new assessments will be in place for the 2012-2013 school year.

    Q:  How will students access the on-line services and resources?
    The Department of Public Instruction has developed, NC Test, a secure online testing system, for administering State assessments. The district and individual schools have purchased online programs and software which allow students to access online resources throughout the school year.
    Q:  Is there a push to include all assessments online in the future?
    In the school year, 2014-2015, online assessments will be available for our students in all tested areas.
    Q:  Will there be a new writing test?
    There will be writing objectives assessed on the new English II assessment. Juniors are required to take the ACT writing test.
    Q:  Will there be allowances for more time in class for testing?
    The new State Assessments are not designed to be longer tests. For online testing, students may be tested on different days, in order to access the technology.
    Q:  Will standardized tests be used to place students in math pathways?
    Multiple data points are used to place students in any class. The Testing Code of Ethics prohibits using only one test score to make educational decisions for students.
    Q:  Will Johnston County Schools (JCS) continue with quarterly assessments?
    JCS is dedicated to providing an assessment tool for our schools to use with common and benchmark assessments.

    Please note: 

    The symbol (*Q) indicates that we have used the FAQ provided from the www.corestandards.org website and we accredit the following person(s) as the authors:

    Authors: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers
    Title: Common Core State Standards (insert specific content area if you are using only one)
    Publisher: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C.
    Copyright Date: 2010

    For more information, please refer to