California and the Common Core Standards: Intersection and Direction

Reading List: Transitioning to Common Core

**Edwards, B. (2010, June). California and the “Common Core:” Will There Be a New Debate about K-12 Standards? Mountain View, CA: EdSource. Available at

The report addresses the debate over the Common Core State Standards Initiative and whether California will adopt the new standards. The author first makes the case that, while California’s current standards are strong, many stakeholders currently see room for improvement. The author then provides a brief overview of the process for adopting the Common Core before addressing specific questions related to cost, implementation and effectiveness of the standards. The author then discusses the possibility of revisiting California’s standards even if the state chooses not to adopt the Common Core.

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2010). California: The Case to Adopt Common College and Career-Ready Standards and Assessment. Washington, D.C: Author. Available at$file/A4EE_CommonStandards_CA.pdf

This one-page brief provides an overview of why the Common Core State Standards should be adopted in California, based on the ineffectiveness of the state’s current standards and the benefits to improving the preparation students have prior to entering the workforce or college. The document substantiates this argument through the use of data which include teachers’ views on the impact of standards, California’s college graduation rate, and data that shows how state tests are overstating student proficiency.

Long Beach Unified School District. (2010, March). Common Core State Math Standards vs. California Math Standards: K-8. Author. Not available online.

This brief comparison of California’s current mathematics standards to the draft Common Core mathematics standards, prepared by staff in the math department at Long Beach Unified School District, discusses advantages of the Common Core State Standards and implementation considerations for the district, including how to approach instructional materials and professional development if the state adopts the Common Core. (Note: This document was produced before the final standards were released in June, so some of the comparisons may not be current.)

Sawchuk, S. (2010, January 14). “Putting New Standards into Practice a Tough Job: Challenges Loom on Curricular and Teacher Fronts.” Education Week, 29(17). 16-19. Available at

This article discusses issues districts face with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and touches on ways to improve the transition. The author outlines both the problem of variability when putting new standards into practice, as teachers may not readily adopt the new standards in their daily instruction, and the issues with curricula and assessments that may not initially be well-aligned with the new standards. The author suggests the need for greater investment in site-based professional training to assist teachers with the transition to new standards and the use of tools to help teachers align instruction to the new standards.

Spillane, J. P. (1999). State and Local Government Relations in the Era of Standards-Based Reform: Standards, State Policy Instruments, and Local Instructional Policy Making. Education Policy. 13(4). Available at

Examining case studies from nine districts in Michigan, this piece explores the influence of the district on standards-based reform and instruction. The author concludes that while all nine districts ensured that the topics covered in their policies matched the state standards, the influence of the standards did not lead to complex pedagogical changes, in large part because the local capacity and local will affected the implementation of standards.

Jacobs, J (2006). It Takes a Vision: How Three States Created Great Academic Standards. Washington, DC: The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Available at

This essay recounts California, Massachusetts and Indiana’s story of how they created strong K-12 curriculum standards in the 1990s. The author reports common themes that appear in these case studies including that the process should not to be decided solely in committees, that states need strong visionary leadership with a willingness to fight and win curricular battles, and that bipartisanship is vital to the process.

**This document is considered a priority reading.