The standards establish guidelines for English language arts (ELA) as well as for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Because students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, the standards promote the literacy skills and concepts required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines.
The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards form the backbone of the ELA/literacy standards by articulating core knowledge and skills, while grade-specific standards provide additional specificity. Beginning in grade 6, the literacy standards allow teachers of ELA, history/social studies, science, and technical subjects to use their content area expertise to help students meet the particular challenges of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in their respective fields.
It is important to note that the grade 6–12 literacy standards in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects are meant to supplement content standards in those areas, not replace them. States determine how to incorporate these standards into their existing standards for those subjects or adopt them as content area literacy standards.
The skills and knowledge captured in the ELA/literacy standards are designed to prepare students for life outside the classroom. They include critical-thinking skills and the ability to closely and attentively read texts in a way that will help them understand and enjoy complex works of literature. Students will learn to use cogent reasoning and evidence collection skills that are essential for success in college, career, and life. The standards also lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person who is prepared for success in the 21st century.
For more than a decade, research studies of mathematics education in high-performing countries have concluded that mathematics education in the United States must become substantially more focused and coherent in order to improve mathematics achievement in this country. To deliver on this promise, the mathematics standards are designed to address the problem of a curriculum that is “a mile wide and an inch deep.”
These new standards build on the best of high-quality math standards from states across the country. They also draw on the most important international models for mathematical practice, as well as research and input from numerous sources, including state departments of education, scholars, assessment developers, professional organizations, educators, parents and students, and members of the public.
The math standards provide clarity and specificity rather than broad general statements. They endeavor to follow the design envisioned by William Schmidt and Richard Houang (2002), by not only stressing conceptual understanding of key ideas, but also by continually returning to organizing principles such as place value and the laws of arithmetic to structure those ideas.
In addition, the “sequence of topics and performances” that is outlined in a body of math standards must respect what is already known about how students learn. As Confrey (2007) points out, developing “sequenced obstacles and challenges for students…absent the insights about meaning that derive from careful study of learning, would be unfortunate and unwise.” Therefore, the development of the standards began with research-based learning progressions detailing what is known today about how students’ mathematical knowledge, skill, and understanding develop over time. The knowledge and skills students need to be prepared for mathematics in college, career, and life are woven throughout the mathematics standards. They do not include separate Anchor Standards like those used in the ELA/literacy standards.
These standards define what students should understand and be able to do in their study of mathematics. But asking a student to understand something also means asking a teacher to assess whether the student has understood it. But what does mathematical understanding look like? One way for teachers to do that is to ask the student to justify, in a way that is appropriate to the student’s mathematical maturity, why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule comes from. Mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important, and both are assessable using mathematical tasks of sufficient richness.