A Guide to the Common Core, the Next Phase of High-Stakes Testing

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 For most public school students in the U.S., 2014 will be the year of Common Core. After years of planning and development, national standardized tests tied to the new education initiative are being rolled out this year. What does this mean for public education and for those who care about equity and access to education for communities of color? Below, a primer to get started as Common Core—and the debate about it—sweeps across the country.

What exactly is Common Core? That’d be the Common Core State Standards Initiative to you. The state-run program, which was first proposed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, is intended to introduce a single set of newer, more challenging standards for math and language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade. Prior to Common Core, every state set its own academic standards. The selling point is that the new standards, which ostensibly require critical thinking and analytical skills, will make students globally competitive in a rapidly shifting economy. They’re technically voluntary standards that 45 states plus the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories have adopted.

Common Core is often confused for a federal program because the Obama administration has provided some $350 million to fund the initiative, and made receiving federal money via Race to the Top and leniency on programs like No Child Left Behind contingent upon states’ adoption of Common Core.

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