The U.S. education system has received an overhaul in recent years, driven by programs that attempt to balance student knowledge with educator performance.

However, students still trail their global counterparts in math, writing, and science. This has created a degree of “educational stagnation” that requires new focus in the industry.

A few of the data driving this focus include:

  • Only 32-44% of American 11th graders attained college-level mathematics skills (ACT, 2010).
  • Just 25% of American high-school seniors scored at a proficient level on the 2009 NAEP assessment (OECD, 2010).
  • American 15-year-olds score below the average for industrialized knowledge in reading, mathematics, and science on the 2009 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) (OECD, 2010).

Such data has painted a troubling picture for American education systems and prompted state governments to respond. The response came in the form of the Common Core State Standards, a state-led system independent from federal programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Even without a federal mandate for implementation, educators in 44 states and the District of Columbia have worked to replace their existing state-specific standards with the Common Core standards – hoping to provide a uniform program that charts similar experiences from state-to-state.

Common Core aims to define the knowledge and skills required for high school graduation. The standards target K-12 educational institutions and focus on proficiencies in English language arts (ELA)/literacy and mathematics.

Implementing Common Core requires educator involvement and preparation, as it’s educators who hold the keys to success. Math for America president John Ewing noted that “If the standards are to succeed in changing education, we must prepare our teachers to make them succeed.”

As an educator, you can implement Common Core in your classroom by using these strategies:

  • Conduct a Gap Analysis and Design Coursework Accordingly. A gap analysis helps determine where achievement gaps exist within a current curriculum and maps a course for adjustments.Use the following in your initial gap analysis to determine areas which need improving:
    • Classroom Materials Audit: Determine if your textbooks align with the new standards.
    • Peer Analysis: Observe teachers for ideas – in-person or online.
    • Surveys: Analyze responses, directly from students, to discover how you can help them better learn class material.
  • Attain High-quality Field Experience. Consider additional professional training and education to advance your own skill sets and be better prepared for Common Core.
    • Immersion experiences, professional development courses and/or advanced degree options like Capella University’s Master of Science in Education degree programs.
    • Join professional learning communities that include educators from all levels, as well as literacy and mathematics experts who helped shape the standards. These communities are dedicated to helping you receive the knowledge and training to best prepare your students for Common Core standards and college entry.

The Common Core State Standards project is still relatively new, and schools are only just beginning to see results from its implementation.

Improving the quality of American education requires that you first understand where the gaps in achievement are, and then use the tools available to make changes. Doing so will help you position your students to achieve educational success in K-12 classrooms and beyond.


Capella University’s Master of Science in Education in K-12 Studies includes course emphases in the four Common Core content areas—Standards-Based Math, Science, Social Studies, and English Language Arts.