Common Core Standards in Math

In 2010, for the first time in U.S. history, 44 states joined forces to implement a set of Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM) to help the nation’s students develop the math abilities necessary to compete in the global marketplace. SFSA and SFUSD are working to make San Francisco’s students some of the first in the nation to study under the new standards.

A unique component of the standards is that they were created, for the first time, with the goal in mind of creating college and career ready skills for students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Math will be taught with the understanding that what a child learns in first grade impacts how and what they learn in second grade, as well as every successive grade all the way to 12th grade, and beyond into their careers.

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) will be one of the first large districts in the state to implement California’s new Common Core Standards in Mathematics. The San Francisco School Alliance (SFSA) in partnership with SFUSD and the Charles A. Dana Center of The University of Texas at Austin, has begun conducting a comprehensive project that will support SFUSD in aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices and policies to the standards as well as in building capacity to teach the new standards to all of their students.

At the classroom level, these rigorous standards will challenge teachers’ content knowledge and also their ability to deliver effective instruction that meets the intent of the CCSSM. Respectfully supporting teachers requires new approaches to professional learning and, we believe, new uses of technologies, programs, and productivity tools.

It is important to start our work by helping the district staff to assess their existing preK-12 mathematics program and to analyze their capacities and readiness for change, using coherent, research-based tools and protocols. Of special importance is identifying district strengths that can serve as a reliable foundation for ambitious improvements in teaching and learning. We will support SFUSD as it undertakes the challenging work of aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices and policies to the CCSSM and of building sustainable capacity to teach the new standards to all of their students.

The continuous improvement of the instructional program has three key components:

  1. Making instructional expectations clear—At all levels of the system, these expectations must be made clear and must be non-negotiable.
  2. Collaborating to meet or exceed the expectations—Meaningful engagement and collaboration among schools and between schools and the area or district office is the key to commitment to the implementation of the standards in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
  3. Monitoring and adjustment—Systems changes must be monitored by collecting a variety of data that measures levels of implementation. Data does not make a difference unless it is analyzed, results are reflected on, and the reflection results in action to adjust and improve the implementation effort.

These three key components define a continuous improvement process that is simple and powerful. The process can be implemented with consistency and coherence at the district level and at every school in the district. The process can be applied to every component of the instructional system. Consistent implementation of the process brings a clear focus on meeting or exceeding the instructional expectations. In this way, the SFSA and SFUSD will be able to apply the lessons learned in applying the CCSSM to other curriculum areas.