Myths and Facts


Common Core State Standards Myths:  General

Myth: The CCSS are not challenging enough.

Fact: The CCSS have dramatically improved the rigor of Wisconsin standards. A 2008 task force of educators, parents, higher education faculty, and business leaders were charged by former-Superintendent Burmaster to examine existing Wisconsin math and English standards and to make recommendations for improving them. This process was facilitated by the American Diploma Project, a non-profit organization responsible for assisting over 30 states examine their state standards for evidence of college and career readiness. At the end of this process in 2008, the task force recommended a complete revision of standards to ensure college and career readiness for all Wisconsin students and submitted a number of key features that should be required of any Wisconsin college and career ready standards. The CCSS meet all of them; a conclusion verified through our own state consideration of the drafts of the CCSS, which included stakeholder meetings and a period of open comment on the draft standards. The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a national conservative-leaning education think tank, estimates that Wisconsin experienced one of the highest jumps in rigor from old to new standards when we adopted the CCSS.

Myth: The CCSS only include skills and do not address the importance of content knowledge.

Fact: The CCSS recognize that both content and skills are important. In English language arts, the CCSS require certain critical content for all students, including: classic fables and stories from around the world, America’s Founding Documents, American literature, and Shakespeare. Appropriately, the crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to local determination.

In mathematics, the CCSS lay a solid foundation in the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. Taken together, these elements support a student’s ability to learn and apply more demanding mathematics concepts and procedures. The middle school and high school CCSS call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges; they prepare students to think and reason mathematically. The CCSS set a rigorous definition of college and career readiness, not by piling topic upon topic, but by demanding that students develop a depth of understanding and ability to apply mathematics to new situations, as college students and employees regularly do.

In addition to English language arts and mathematics, the CCSS require that students systematically acquire knowledge in other disciplines through more reading, writing, speaking, and listening than ever before. To assist with this expectation, Wisconsin’s adoption of the CCSS includes the CCSS for Literacy in All Subject Areas. The literacy standards assist content area teachers in teaching deeper and richer content knowledge in all subjects. These standards acknowledge the important role of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in developing and communicating content knowledge in ways that deepen understanding. For example, the way a student writes a science lab report is very different than the writing necessary to craft a historical essay with support, or a business letter to a prospective employer. Students need to learn the reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills most relevant to communicating and understanding in each content area, which will lead to better mastery of content across the curriculum.

Myth: The CCSS are not internationally benchmarked.

Fact: International benchmarking played a significant role in the development of the CCSS. In fact, the CCSS include an appendix listing the evidence that was consulted in drafting the CCSS and the international data consulted in the benchmarking process is included in the appendix.

Myth: Other states have repealed the CCSS.

Fact: At the date of publication (Aug 6, 2013) none of the 45 states who have fully adopted the CCSS have repealed or plan to repeal or replace the CCSS. Though several states are participating in a review of the CCSS, no state has taken the step to “undo” the CCSS.

Myth: CCSS increases testing. The standards take creativity out of lesson planning because teachers must “teach to the tests.”

Fact: Statewide testing in grades 3-8 will remain the same when Wisconsin replaces the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE) for English and Math with online Smarter Balanced assessments. While there will be more statewide testing at the high school level through the ACT suite, authorized by the Legislature to improve accountability, neither the Smarter Balanced nor the ACT are “teachable” tests.

Myths About Implementation

Myth: The cost of implementing the CCSS represents a huge burden for Wisconsin citizens.

Fact: The cost of implementing the CCSS is no different than the cost of implementing any set of standards. DPI has not requested any additional funding for CCSS implementation in either the 2011-13 or 2013-15 state budgets. The costs of CCSS-aligned assessments are in line with previous state WKCE assessments required by federal NCLB legislation, and this cost was supported throughout the 2013-15 state budget process. Locally, each Wisconsin district selects instructional materials aligned to standards, and this process is a constantly ongoing cycle. The adoption of the CCSS has been worked into this curriculum adoption cycle locally, just like any other state standards adoption in the past.

Myth: The CCSS tell teachers what to teach.

Fact: The best understanding of what works in the classroom comes from the teachers who are in the classroom. That’s why these standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, individual states, local schools and teachers decide how best to help students reach the CCSS.

Myth: The CCSS amount to a national curriculum for our schools.

Fact: The CCSS are not a curriculum. They are a clear set of expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others decide how the CCSS are to be met. Teachers continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.

Myth: The CCSS eliminate competition among textbook publishers and curriculum developers, forcing private and home-school children to use CCSS curriculum.

Fact: In Wisconsin, all public and private schools as well as home-schooled students have complete freedom to select the high quality instructional materials that best meet the needs of their students. The CCSS are simply a set of standards for what students should know and be able to do. There are countless textbook series and curriculum approaches dedicated to meeting these standards, as well as other sets of standards used in the US. This approach is unchanged from past years.

Myth: The federal government will take over ownership of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Fact: The federal government does not govern the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Initiative was and remains a state-led effort supported through the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. In Wisconsin, all decisions about curriculum and content are made at the local level.

Myth: Implementation of the CCSS will lead to government collection and sharing of private personal and family information via an electronic database.

Fact: Student data are highly protected and our efforts around student data systems fully comply with the law by adopting data privacy and security protections that meet the highest industry standards, exceed federal (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA) requirements, and are designed to ensure that student data are used only for agreed-upon education purposes and not further disclosed. In no case would data ever be sold to anyone - ever. The data are owned by the districts, and the DPI will protect it according to federal and state laws. No new data collection is required as part of the Common Core State Standards initiative.

Myths About Process

Myth: The CCSS has not been adequately field tested.

Fact: Standards are not field-tested; rather they are revised at appropriate intervals. There are countless materials designed to teach standards through strategies, curriculum, textbooks etc, and any attempt to “field test” a set of standards would not test the standards as much as the resources used to teach the standards. The CCSS adoption and revision approach is no different than approaches taken by the majority of states (including Wisconsin under Governor Thompson) in designing and adopting standards. As the CCSS are fully implemented and we begin to analyze the college and career readiness of students in Wisconsin, we will continue to make necessary adjustments and revisions to the standards. Assessments are often field-tested, and currently, Wisconsin is participating in field-testing and piloting the SMARTER assessment aligned to the CCSS.

Myth: No teachers were involved in writing the CCSS.

Fact: The standards drafting process relied on teachers and standards experts from across the country. Wisconsin teachers played an important role in the reviewing and release of the standards.

Myth: The CCSS are not research or evidence based.

Fact: The CCSS have made careful use of a large and growing body of evidence. The evidence base includes scholarly research; surveys on what skills are required of students entering college and workforce training programs; assessment sate identifying college and career ready performance; and comparisons to standards from high performing states and nations. In English language arts, the CCSS build on the firm foundation of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) frameworks in Reading and Writing, which draw on extensive scholarly research and evidence. Additionally, the National Reading Panel Report provided guidance to the CCSS, particularly on the Reading Foundations section.

In mathematics, the CCSS draw on recommendations from Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and other studies of high performing countries that the traditional mathematics curriculum must become substantially more  coherent and focused to improve student achievement, addressing the problem of a curriculum that is “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Myths About Content and Quality: ELA/Literacy

Myth: The CCSS in English Language Arts are just vague descriptions of skills; they don’t include a reading list or any other similar reference to content.

Fact: The CCSS provide specific descriptions and qualities of the sufficiently complex texts educators should be using in each grade level. The CCSS provide guidance for teachers, schools, and districts in making decisions about what texts to use. To meet this goal, the CCSS include excerpted sample texts (Appendix B) that demonstrate the level of text complexity appropriate for grade bands. Teachers, schools, and districts understand the learning demands set out in the CCSS, examine the exemplars for text complexity, and make decisions about what texts will best meet the needs of students. Wisconsin has developed high quality materials and processes educators can use to help select complex texts in line with the text complexity outlined in Appendix B. These resources can be found at

Myth: The CCSS do not emphasize fiction/literature. The standards ask English teachers to teach other subject-area texts.

Fact: The CCSS require certain critical content for all students, including: classic fables and stories from around the world, America’s Founding Documents, American literature, and Shakespeare. Appropriately, the remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to local determination. All reading lists and other content decisions are made at the local level in Wisconsin. In addition to content coverage, the CCSS require that students systematically acquire knowledge in literature and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Much of the reading done in high school, college and the workforce is informational text. To meet this demand, the CCSS call for students to read increasing amounts of informational text as they move toward college and career readiness. This increased amount of nonfiction reading happens through the texts read in all subject areas, including science, social studies, history, and technical subjects to gain critical content knowledge. Fiction/literature remains a critical part of what is studied in English classrooms. Wisconsin has become a national leader in efforts to ensure all subject areas include reading, writing, speaking and listening activities that are relevant to that subject. For more information on this effort, called Disciplinary Literacy in Wisconsin, please visit

Myths About Content and Quality: Mathematics

Myth: The CCSS for mathematics do not prepare or require students to learn Algebra in the 8th grade, as many states’ current standards do.

Fact: When fully implemented, the CCSS prepare students for Algebra 1 in 8th grade by including the prerequisites for this course in kindergarten through grade 7. Students who master the kindergarten through grade 7 material with sufficient understanding will be able to take Algebra 1 in 8th grade. At the same time, grade 8 standards are also included; these include rigorous algebra and will transition students effectively into a full Algebra 1 course.

The kindergarten through grades 7 standards build a strong foundation where students are actively engaged in learning and understanding the prerequisite skills for a successful transition to higher levels of mathematics. Students who have completed 7th grade and mastered the content and skills throughout the 7th grade will be well prepared for algebra in grade 8. Together, the middle school CCSS are robust and provide a coherent and rich preparation for high school mathematics. Fifteen presidents of the professional societies that make up the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences have recently signed a statement of “strong support” for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (Aug 6, 2013). The statement calls the Common Core State Standards “an auspicious advance in mathematics education.”

Myth: Key mathematics topics are missing or appear in the wrong grade.

Fact: The mathematical progressions presented in the CCSS are coherent and based on evidence. Part of the problem with having 50 different sets of state standards is that today, different states cover different topics at different grade levels. Coming to consensus guarantees that from the viewpoint of any given state, topics will move up or down in the grade level sequence. This is unavoidable. What is important to keep in mind is that the progression in the CCSS is mathematically coherent and leads to college and career readiness at an internationally competitive level.

Myth: The CCSS for mathematics do not require students to learn basic math facts.

Fact: The CCSS specify grade levels by which students are expected to be fluent with basic facts. The CCSS set a rigorous definition for a richer acquisition of mathematical content by asking students to apply the mathematics at a deeper level, gain a conceptual understanding of the mathematics while at the same time obtain the speed and fluency of knowing mathematics facts and algorithms (solve for x).

For questions about this information, contact Emilie Amundson (608) 267-3726