Curriculum & Instruction
Standards-based education guides the content that students should master in each grade and shapes curriculum development at every grade level. Teachers and local school officials, in collaboration with families and community partners, use these standards to help students achieve academic success. Although the standards are intended to provide objectives for students and teachers, decisions about classroom instruction are generally made at the local level by the teacher, local administrator, and/or the locally-elected school board.
California’s standards have been hailed for their rigor, setting high expectations for all students. Starting in 1997, California has adopted content standards in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, history–social science, science, visual and performing arts, health, world language, physical education, school library standards, and career technical education. California also has standards in English language development (ELD), which outline the stages of English proficiency English learners progress through as they become proficient in the English language. All of the content standards are posted in PDF and Word format on the CDE Content Standards web page.
All of California’s content standards provide detailed expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. The ultimate goal of the education system in California is to ensure that all students have access to high-quality curriculum and instruction in order that they may meet or exceed the knowledge and skills outlined in the State’s academic content standards.
The development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) was a voluntary state-led effort coordinated by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with stakeholders from nearly every state in the country contributing to their development. In the fall of 2009, governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states (including California), two territories, and the District of Columbia, committed to developing a set of standards that would help prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in education and careers after high school. The feedback and the review process was integral to the shaping of these new standards, and included educators from kindergarten through grade twelve, postsecondary faculty, curriculum and assessment experts, researchers, national organizations, and community groups.
The CCSS include standards for mathematics, ELA, and literacy in various content areas for students in kindergarten through grade twelve. More information about the development of the CCSS is available on the Common Core State Standards Initiative Web Site.
In January 2010, Senate Bill 1 from the Fifth Extraordinary Session (SB X5 1) established the Academic Content Standards Commission (ACSC) to develop academic content standards for ELA and mathematics. The ACSC was composed of members appointed by the Governor and the Legislature, the majority of whom were current public school elementary or secondary classroom teachers. The ACSC was authorized to make recommendations to the California State Board of Education (SBE) to approve or disapprove the CCSS, and to supplement those standards with up to 15 percent additional standards. The ACSC met four times in June and July 2010, and provided its recommendations to the SBE on July 15, 2010. The SBE voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations of the ACSC on August 2, 2010. More information about the adoption process is available on the CCSS Adoption Process Web page.
The standards were adopted by the SBE on August 2, 2010. However, it will take several years to implement curriculum, instructional materials, and assessments based on the new standards. During its March 2012 meeting, the SBE voted to present, in partnership with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI), theCommon Core State Standards Systems Implementation Plan for Californiato the Governor and the California State Legislature thereby fulfilling the requirements of CaliforniaEducation CodeSection 60605.8 (h).
The plan is a living document that identifies major phases and activities in the implementation of the CCSS throughout California's educational system. The document includes several appendices, including a template organized around the significant milestones of CCSS systems implementation that local educational agencies (LEAs) may use as a starting point for developing their own local plans. In addition, the plan includes information from various professional organizations and stakeholder groups regarding how these organizations can assist LEAs in implementing the CCSS.
Each of California’s LEAs should develop its own local plan for CCSS systems implementation based on local needs and resources. The CCSS systems implementation plan and the excerpted local CCSS systems implementation plan template are available on the CDE CCSS Web page.
Educators should begin reviewing the CCSS now in order to understand the changes in the standards and what they will need to consider in transitioning to them. The CDE CCSS Web page has links to numerous resources designed to support the transition to the CCSS and is updated as new resources become available.
Two excellent resources with which to begin the transition are A Look at Kindergarten through Grade Six in California Public Schools and A Look at Grades Seven and Eight in California Public Schools, compilations of subject-matter curriculum, including information about transitioning to the CCSS, organized by individual grade levels.
The CaliforniaEducation Code(EC) mandates the adopted course of study for grades one through twelve. EC Section 51210 states that the adopted course of study for students in grades one through six shall include instruction in the following areas of study:
-English, including knowledge of, and appreciation for, literature and the language, as well as the skills of speaking, reading, listening, spelling, handwriting, and composition.
-Mathematics, including concepts, operational skills, and problem solving.
-Social sciences, drawing upon the disciplines of anthropology, economics, geography, history, political science, psychology, and sociology, designed to fit the maturity of the pupils. Instruction shall provide a foundation for understanding the history, resources, development, and government of California and the United States of America; the development of the American economic system, including the role of the entrepreneur and labor; the relations of persons to their human and natural environment; eastern and western cultures and civilizations; contemporary issues; and the wise use of natural resources.
-Science, including the biological and physical aspects, with emphasis on the processes of experimental inquiry and on the place of humans in ecological systems.
-Visual and performing arts, including instruction in the subjects of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, aimed at the development of aesthetic appreciation and the skills of creative expression.
-Health, including instruction in the principles and practices of individual, family, and community health.
-Physical education, with emphasis on physical activities for pupils that may be conducive to health and vigor of body and mind, for a total period of time of not less than 200 minutes each 10 school days, exclusive of recesses and the lunch period.
-Other studies that may be prescribed by the governing board.
Every school in California is required to provide instruction in the subjects named above, although physical education is the only subject that has statutorily required minutes of instruction. The schedule of the instructional day and week is determined by the teacher and the local school and district administration.
While implementation of specific academic content standards is a local decision and not mandated byEC, California strongly recommends their local use. Additionally, statewide assessments which are mandated byECare based upon California’s adopted academic content standards. California is supporting local implementation of the CCSS through many resources available to all LEAs many of which are noted in the Common Core State Standards Systems Implementation Plan for California.