Common Core State Standards
An important distinction needs to be made between standards — which outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade level — and curriculum — which is what happens day to day and week to week in classrooms. Standards remain constant, but curriculum can be altered year to year or classroom to classroom to ensure students are meeting the learning goals.
“We are teaching the Common Core State Standards!”
Sorry, you can’t “teach” the Common Core State Standards to children. Well, I shouldn’t say that, I guess you could, but then you would be teaching them what is expected from them instead of the actual content and skills they need to meet the Common Core State Standards. Standards and curriculum are two completely different animals and the confusion about the differences between them is pretty wide spread. I get asked all the time about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and it’s almost always understood as being some sort of list of stuff the kids are being taught. Nope. Here’s the difference.
Standards are simply expectations. For example we expect kids to “Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.” This is the CCSS Grade 3 Standard NBT.A.2. The CCSS is document created by the National Governors Association that outlines a single set of standards for kindergarten through the 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. Forty-five states have agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards as their own set of expectations for their students.
Now here’s the important part. A curriculum is the program or detailed daily plan for day to day teaching. It can and should include resources such as a textbook, lesson plans, activities and assessments. Most importantly, the curriculum should be thought of as the guide to help teachers reach the standards with their students.
Curriculum is the vehicle and the map, and standards are the destination. Teachers drive the car.