Common Core State Standards FAQ

While many educators are familiar with the basics of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (why they were created, who created them, etc.), we see common questions relating to details concerning the transition to Common Core. This lesson provides answers to these common questions that impact how you prepare for the transition. For those also seeking a more general overview of Common Core, resources are featured at the end of this lesson.


For which subjects and grade levels are CCSSs available?

Common Core State Standards (CCSSs) are available for:

  • English-Language Arts (Grades K-12)
  • Mathematics (Grades K-12)
  • Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (Integrated into Reading and Writing CCSSs for Grades K-5 vs. with Their Own Reading and Writing CCSSs for Grades 6-12)

While other subject areas are important to college and career readiness, the Council of Chief State Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) that led CCSS development do not plan to develop standards in other subjects; rather, they plan to focus on the existing CCSSs' implementation. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) (the consortium CA opted to join) is working on science standards, but science assessments will not be included with the 2014-15 assessment implementation. However, science assessments could be added in the future.

Are CCSSs available in Illuminate?

Yes (for all grade levels and subjects).


Do CCSSs look the same in every state?

No. States had the opportunity to add 15% to the Common Core they use. For example, CA added some additional standards and also added some verbiage to existing standards. Visit to see how CA Common Core differs slightly from National Common Core. However, the new state assessments (from SBAC) will not include the CA standard additions, as they will be geared toward the Common Core all states are using.

How are CCSSs structured?

Strands vs. domains vs. conceptual categories... topics vs. clusters... CCSS structure differs by subject area and grade level, and terminology can be confusing. Visit the handout at to get a clear sense of:

  • how the standards are structured
  • how terms are used
  • how many CCSSs there are per grade level, strand, domain, etc.

Might these standards undergo change?

Yes. There is an ongoing development process at the state level that can mean ongoing standards changes in an effort to improve them.


When will new state assessments be in place?

The new state assessments (from SBAC) are scheduled for implementation in the 2014-15 school year (after being pilot tested in 2012–13 and field tested in 2013–14).

What assessment types will be available?

Summative Assessment

Administered: During the last 12 weeks of the school year

Subjects: English language arts/literacy and mathematics

Grade Levels: Grades 3-8 and 11

Format: 2 parts (a computer adaptive test and performance tasks done on a computer but not computer adaptive)

Purpose/Feedback: Student achievement and growth (in relation to knowledge and skills required to be college- and career-ready); part of program evaluation and school/district/state accountability systems

Optional Interim Assessments

Administered: At intervals determined locally

Subjects: English language arts/literacy and mathematics

Grade Levels: Grades 3-8 and 11

Format: 2 parts (a computer adaptive test and performance tasks done on a computer but not computer adaptive)

Purpose/Feedback: Formative data on student progress throughout the year; data for intervention, instruction, and professional development

Optional Formative Resources

SBAC is also going to make these available for K-12 educators:

  • Digital library of research-based professional development materials, resources, scoring rubrics for performance tasks, model instructional units, released assessment items, and tools related to formative assessment strategies and aligned to Common Core
  • A secure, online reporting system providing assessment results (student achievement and progress toward mastery of Common Core) to students, parents, teachers, and administrators

How will the new assessments look?

The new state assessments (both mandatory/summative and optional/interim) will:

  • make use of computer adaptive technology (CAT), which offers more accurate results (especially for lower- and higher-performing students) by basing the difficulty of each question on how the student answered the previous question.
  • not include the standard additions that each state was allowed to add, as they will be geared toward the Common Core all states are using.
  • be designed all students except those with “significant cognitive disabilities" (e.g., students who take the CAPA in CA).
  • include multiple-choice questions but also short constructed response and extended constructed response.
  • include performance tasks in reading, writing, and math, which are collections of questions/activities connected to a single, real-world topic or scenario. These tasks will involve the computer (to deliver the tasks) but will not involve CAT. They are likely to comprise 1/2 of the summative tests' administration time to complete but are likely to be worth less than half of the tests' total points.
  • communicate results to educators and parents in weeks rather than months.

Click here and scroll to the "Item/Task Specifications" section for drafts of sample assessment items/questions, rubrics, prompts, etc. Click here for sample ELA and Literacy performance tasks. Click here for student writing samples.

What will happen to the old state assessments?

Starting in 2014-15 (when common core assessments are administered), what will happen to the current STAR tests? Will the CST and CMA go away? Will the CAPA and STS stay in place? What about the CSTs and CMAs for grades not assessed with common core (like grades 2, 9, and 10)?


These questions have not yet been answered. Reauthorization of ESEA and STAR are being addressed by policymakers right now and there are a lot of proposals being made through legislation. We will stay tuned for the answers.


Are "crosswalks" available?

Yes. Most states standards have had crosswalks (aligning current state standards to Common Core) developed. There isn't a direct one-to-one correlation between all standards, but they offer a helpful start when transitioning.

When should teachers start teaching CCSSs?

This answer comes from CDE's website:

Educators should begin reviewing the CCSS now in order to understand the changes in the standards and what they will need to consider in transitioning to them. The CDE CCSS Resources Web page has numerous documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Webinars to support the transition to the CCSS and is updated as new resources become available.

An excellent resource with which to begin the transition is A Look at Kindergarten through Grade Six in California Public Schools, a compilation of subject-matter curriculum, including information about transitioning to the CCSS, organized by individual grade levels. CDE on iTunes U also offers many high quality CCSS-related professional learning resources for educators. In addition, California’s county offices of education are good sources of information and resources to support the transition to the CCSS.

When will CCSS instructional materials be available?

The following is expected but not guaranteed:

  • Supplemental materials for ELA and math will be approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) in 2012-2013 and in use in Districts in 2013-2014.
  • A new adoption of instructional materials for ELA will be approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) in 2018-2019 and in use in Districts in 2019-2020.
  • A new adoption of instructional materials for Math will be approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) in 2018-2019 and in use in Districts in 2019-2020.

What resources will we not want to miss as we transition?

Next Steps

Visit for the actual standards and other resources.

Visit for key points concerning ELA Common Core.

Visit for key points concerning Math Common Core.

Visit for Math Common Core implementation help from the Math Common Core Coalition.

Visit for your FAQs on understanding the Common Core.

Visit for your Common Core Implementation for Leaders.

Visit for info specific to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), the consortium states like CA opted to join.

Visit for info specific to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the consortium states like OH opted to join. Note these 2 consortia (SBAC and PARCC) are also collaborating to ensure their proficiency standards and assessments are comparable.

Visit for SBAC FAQ.

Visit for details concerning SBAC assessments.