Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative?

Under the supervision of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative was formed to develop a set of national educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade. The standards intend to promote consistency in educational outcomes by ensuring students throughout the United States are prepared with the skills and knowledge to compete with their peers both nationally and internationally and enter a two- or four-year college program or the workforce.

What are the Common Core State Standards?

In the United States, standards-based education provides the framework for what“experts” determine are necessary student outcomes. Tasked to create national standards to ensure consistency of educational outcomes throughout the United States, the CCSS provides a set of standards that are described as “essential,rigorous, clear and specific, coherent, and internationally benchmarked.” The English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics standards were released in 2010.  The Science standards, titled The Next Generation Science Standards, are based on the Framework for K–12 Science Education developed by the National Research Council. Both the Science and the Social Science standards were made public within the past year. A link to the standards is provided on Catholic is our Core along with a detailed analysis of the ELA and Math standards.

How many states are implementing the Common Core?

Initially 45 state legislatures approved implementation of the Common Core for their states. There has been significant movement in individual states to at least pause the implementation of the Common Core. Here is a graphic which shows those states who either have not implemented the Common Core or have pause or downgraded the implementation.

Who has ownership of the standards?

The CCSS Initiative’s website explicitly states: “This website and all content on this website, including in particular the Common Core State Standards, are the property of NGA Center and CCSSO, and NGA Center and CCSSO retain all right,title, and interest in and to the same.”

Are states mandated to adopt CCSS?

There is no requirement for states to adopt the CCSS; participation is voluntary.  However, federal incentives for states that have adopted the standards are available, including Race to the Top funds and waivers associated with the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act Recovery and Reinvestment Act(2009).

How might adoption of CCSS impact a school’s academic program?

There are three distinct areas that are impacted for all schools that adopt the Common Core:

1.   The Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARRC) are in the process of developing and implementing a comprehensive assessment system to measure annual student performance and replace existing state testing systems.

2.   National testing for college readiness (including ACT and SAT) will be aligned to the standards.

3.   Textbook selection as well as curricular materials and resources. In 2013, Pearson announced a partnership with Bill Gates’ Microsoft, to enrich software, testing and textbook companies

4.   Professional development may be needed to support educators in teaching to the new standards.

Must diocese or private schools adopt the Common Core State Standards?


What impact will the CCSS have on Catholic education?

There is considerable debate as to what impact the CCSS will have on the Catholic identity and academic excellence of Catholic schools throughout our nation.  Dioceses quick to adopt/adapt/infuse the CCSS are currently in the process of reviewing academic standards in the core areas by looking at their existing standards, state standards, and standards of national organizations to ensure that their standards continue to meet and exceed the CCSS, and ensure that Catholic school graduates receive an excellent academic program with spiritual formation for life.

Lending to the confusion is the endorsement by the NCEA of the CCSS and their partnership with the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (CCCII).

The CCCII has two goals: (1) to assist Catholic schools and dioceses with the design and implementation of the Common Core standards within the culture and context of a Catholic school curriculum;and (2) to infuse the faith, principles, values, and social justice themes in the mission and Catholic identity of our schools with the Common Core standards(

What does the Common Core have to do with nationalizing education?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a misnomer; it is, in fact, an effort to nationalize education. Because it would be unconstitutional for the U.S. Department of Education to standardize education, the private Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded development of the Standards and bought cooperation from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. But the Obama administration has also played a major role in persuading states to quickly embrace the untested Common Core by offering federal grants for compliance.

What does this have to do with Catholic schools?  Although free to maintain their own standards, Catholic school leaders are concerned about being left behind, because their states and most of the nationally benchmarked tests are conforming to the Common Core. The result, if unchecked, will be a national and largely voluntary compliance with standards that are academically flawed, untested and not focused on the core mission of Catholic schools.

Catholics believe in the principle of subsidiarity. As the center of authority moves away from local control, so too does the ability for input to be provided by those who are closest to the students being educated. That is why parents are the primary educators of their children: “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators”.
(Cfr. II Vatican Council, Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum Educationis, 1965, n. 3)

How will Catholic schools address national testing associated with the CCSS?

Catholic school students have been routinely scoring above national norms and exceeding national standards for decades. Results reported by the NAEP and SAT indicate Catholic schools have continued to out performpublic schools for the last twenty years. Catholic high schools have a 99%graduation rate (as compared to 73% for public high schools) with 85% of Catholic high school students matriculating to a four year college. If our schools continue to provide a solid education, we have no reason to expect less,even on Common Core-aligned tests.

Are Catholic dioceses in the United States adopting the CCSS?

Initial reports from the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) indicated that over 100 diocese were implementing the Common Core. According to Sr. John Mary,O.P., the Secretary for Education for the USCCB, Catholic school superintendents have indicated that less than 30 Catholic dioceses have fully adopted Common Core Standards. Other dioceses are adapting their curricula to them. Check this list of dioceses that have made statements on the Common Core.

What is the position of the Cardinal Newman Society regarding the Common Core?

In a statement on the Common Core, The Society’s President PatrickReilly notes:

We seek to provide those concerned about faithful Catholic education with solid information,analysis and arguments to more fully understand the potential impact of the Common Core on Catholic education and to advise caution about the Common Core until it can be further studied and evaluated.

Is anything being done to reach out to Catholic school leaders about CCSS?

The Cardinal Newman Society launched the website Catholic is Our Core in response to continued requests for information related to the Common Core.

In November 2013, The Cardinal Newman Society partnered with the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS), the Catholic Education Foundation and others to present a two-day meeting for Catholic diocesan superintendents, principals, college professors, and other educators on the Common Core. Later that month, the same sponsors presented a seminar on the Common Core for bishops attending the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Maryland. Both audiences are receiving follow-up information. The Society website has been a resource for many parents, teachers, administrators, priests, and bishops as they gain more knowledge on the Common Core and its impact on Catholic education.

How are Catholic school leaders responding to the CCSS?

In October 2013, The Cardinal Newman Society surveyed principals of outstanding schools recognized in the Catholic High School Honor Roll. The principals indicated strong concerns about the compatibility of the Common Core standards with Catholic schools. Seventy-two percent of Honor Roll principals prefer that dioceses and Catholic schools either reject or at least delay consideration of the Common Core standards until more is known about the potential impact on Catholic education.

Will the CCSS affect home school families?

There does not seem to be any impact on home school families, except with regard to testing for college readiness. Home school families use their own curricular materials and resources to support instruction.