College- and Career-Readiness Are the Core of the Common Core

The Common Core State Standards for students (Common Core) present a range of college- and career-ready standards that emphasize reading, writing, listening and speaking. The standards also present rigorous mathematics standards that, if mastered, will ensure a student is ready to engage in college-level or work-specific mathematical calculations. Since the release on June 2 of this year, the Common Core has been adopted by 23 states. A surge of additional state adoptions are expected by August 2, the deadline for those states seeking additional points on their Race to the Top applications. It is anticipated that a critical mass of 41 states will have adopted the Common Core standards by the end of the year.[1]

College- and career-readiness was the foundation from which the Common Core State Standards Initiative (jointly run by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association) built their content standards. They started the process of drafting the Common Core not by looking at subject-matter content, but by coming to agreement on how to define college- and career-readiness. Only then did the different work teams begin drafting the content standards.

The concept of college- and career-readiness was not new; due in large part to the work of the American Diploma Project (ADP), states had been incorporating college- and career-readiness into their standards for some time. However, by the time ADP was created, states already had standards in English language arts and mathematics in regulation, and they had been using these standards for accountability purposes for years. Thus, for the most part, college- and career-readiness became an add-on to existing standards at best. By starting with college- and career-ready standards, the writers of the Common Core felt they were able to infuse those concepts across the standards. The hope was that this will make the connection between content and application much easier for teachers and school leaders.

Evidence seems pretty strong that college- and career-readiness was reasonably well defined by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Multiple stakeholders provided letters of support for the Common Core, including over twenty higher education associations, over fifty businesses and representative business associations, the Coalition for a College and Career Ready America (CCCRA).

That said, while the grounding provided by college- and career-readiness is clearly noted in the English language arts section, the original college- and career-ready standards are no longer as evident in the mathematics section. We will keep our eye on how, in practice, high school educators find the Common Core standards do or do not help them to incorporate the goal of college- and career-readiness into learning and teaching.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

[1] Gewertz, C. (2010). State adoptions of Common Core standards steam ahead. Education Week. Retrieved from


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