Tag Archives: Common Core

Common Core Adoption: A Tale of Two Districts

janetpintoBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Curriki is following the rollout of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with great interest, and you will see us report on this regularly in this blog.

Since we have a broad international audience, here is a quick description of the Common Core initiative in the United States. K-12 education in the U.S. is primarily the responsibility of individual states and localities. The CCSS is an initiative whose origins date back to the 1990s. It is sponsored by the state Governors and state education authorities, and currently 44 states (out of 50) are fully participating. CCSS addresses Mathematics and English Language Arts only at present (Science and Humanities subjects are not covered).

According to Wikipedia, “the nation’s governors and corporate leaders founded Achieve, Inc. in 1996 as a bipartisan organization to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability in all 50 states…Standards were released for mathematics and English language arts on June 2, 2010, with a majority of states adopting the standards in the subsequent months.”

Curriki is supportive of the objectives of CCSS and we believe that we can contribute significantly, whether in the role of supplementary curricular materials or indeed, in a more central role.

Photo by ninhale via Flickr Creative Commons

The upcoming academic year 2014/2015 represents a key year in the CCSS rollout. While CCSS outlines standards and requirements, it does not provide curricula. It is up to each state and each district to determine what materials to use. Publishers of textbooks and other learning materials are naturally working toward adhering to CCSS standards. But this is a very large change and some updated textbooks are being criticized as just representing a rehash of older material rather than a fully top-down restructuring and redesign in order to fully adhere to the spirit and guidelines of CCSS.

Here’s an article comparing the experiences of two different districts –


One district is in the state of California (Long Beach) and the other is in Florida (Orlando). According to the Edweek article:

“They solved that problem in very different ways. The Florida group scoured the market and chose a suite of materials from a major publisher. Their colleagues across the country, dissatisfied with that same marketplace’s offerings—and limited by their thin pocketbook—wrote their own curriculum.”

The article notes that many districts across the country have delayed updating textbooks and curricular materials as they waited to see what publishers would produce. The district in Florida picked materials primarily from one publisher based on perceived “reflection of the common core and for having a better digital component and better interventions for students with weak skills”.

However the Long Beach district in California took a different path. Given their budget realities, and the slow schedule for CCSS rollout at their state level, they chose to retain their existing mathematics and English language arts texts, but to build new curricula and materials around those.


One way to do this – enhance or develop curricula to align to CCSS – is to make use of Curriki! There are over 50,000 open educational resources on Curriki. These are available for free to build new curricula and supplement existing curricula. For example, Curriki Geometry is a complete geometry course, free at currikigeometry.org. Curriki’s Project-Based Learning and Common Core Aligned Geometry course will help your students build the skills and confidence that will help them conquer mathematical problems and develop 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

We will continue to report to you on CCSS adoption experiences and issues across the U.S. 

Homework Horror?

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Is the homework burden in American schools becoming heavier? Articles in the past 3 years in Atlantic magazine and The New York Times and a CNN story as well have raised this specter. But these stories, while accurate in their own particulars, look to be anecdotal and not statistically representative of the broad population of K-12 students. And this is not the first time such concerns have been raised – the debate has continued for at least the past 100 years.

The CNN story drew from a study which was biased by design. It used a small sample of upper middle class and highly competitive high schools in California, over half of which were private schools. In fact the name of the study was “Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools”!

A further source of bias is that not all students in the chosen schools responded. The ones who did may have been in more of a mood to complain, or even brag about, their heavy homework loads. These are some of the most academically gifted students, who are striving to enter some of the most elite universities in the country and the world.

In Cupertino, California, where Curriki’s offices and Apple’s headquarters are located, many of the students have parents who are top engineers in Silicon Valley. These engineers were chosen from the best and brightest from China, India, the U.S. and the rest of the world. And such parents tend to push their children toward academic achievement. The Cupertino school district has a high school which was recently ranked #109 in the U.S., out of over 21,000 public high schools.

There have been a number of studies of homework, and they indicate on average that most students have less than an hour of homework, even in their senior year of high school. Trends in homework over the past three decades have been reported in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The assessment is part of the 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education from the Brookings Institution. See the table below, taken from the report, and which summarizes findings from a period of almost 3 decades beginning in 1984. Consistent with other studies, the latest NAEP report indicates that, on average, most students have less than an hour of homework, even in their senior year of high school. According to these results, only one such student in 8 has more than 2 hours of homework. At age 9, only one student in 20 has more than 2 hours of homework.


Here is a description of the 10 minute per grade-level guideline, from the Wikipedia article on homework:

“A review by researchers at Duke University of more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 showed that, within limits, there is a positive interaction between the amount of homework which is done and student achievement. The research synthesis also indicated that too much homework could be counterproductive. The research supports the ’10-minute rule’, the widely accepted practice of assigning 10 minutes of homework per day per grade-level. For example, under this system, 1st graders would receive 10 minutes of homework per night, while 5th graders would get 50 minutes’ worth, 9th graders 90 minutes of homework, etc.”

So, in fact, the level of homework by grade level has been relatively stable for the past 3 decades. It will be interesting to see if major trends such as digital learning, flipping the classroom, and Common Core have any effect on the average amount of homework that students are assigned, or actually do.

Curriki is here to help with homework! Here you can find a long list of helpful resources for students that have to do homework, whether it’s a little or a lot!




http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00220973.2012.745469 – “Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools”


BYOD in the Classroom

janetpic_preferredBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Most elementary and secondary students are using mobile devices in their studies, either in the classroom or at home, according to a study by Pearson. The study polled more than 2,300 American students in grades 4 through 12 (aged 8 to 18) and found that almost one-third of students already own a tablet and 43 percent own a smartphone.

Pearson_2013 study

Pearson Student Mobile Study Device Survey 2013 Grades 4-12 Infographic 

In fact, the survey found that seven in ten students would like to use mobile devices more often in their classrooms. The rise of mobile devices in the classroom will be greatly aided by the ConnectED initiative’s planned E-Rate Reform in the U.S. which will help connect more students and provide faster access to Internet in schools, paving the way for digital learning resources.

Geometry Course Designed for Mobile Devices


This week, Curriki announced the Curriki Geometry website  where usability and page design for its innovative Project Based Learning (PBL) geometry curriculum is optimized for mobile devices.

Available for free, students and teachers now have access to a geometry curriculum that is designed to meet the needs of students born in a global, interactive, digitally-connected world.

Curriki Geometry is a set of six Common Core Aligned projects delivered in a mobile-optimized web environment with access points for students and teachers.


Teachers are provided with pacing guides, formative assessments, rubrics, guidance on managing a PBL project, tools to help teachers guide students as they learn to collaborate with each other, and reflection tools for both students and teachers.

Please share this new resource with friends and colleagues and let us know what you think!

Telling Time: Three Terrific Resources

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki




Here are three excellent Curriki resources for learning how to tell time, for kindergarten and lower grade elementary school students.


Clock at Royal Observatory, Greenwich (credit: Alvesgaspar)

Just in Time:


This resource includes time telling games and an interactive learning clock.


Time zone plaque in Chicago (credit: Joe Smack)

Playing with Time:


This is a board game for telling time, and it is Common Core Standards aligned (first grade). It is one of the exemplary resources on Curriki.

Class Clock:


This is an applet for telling time, with both analog and digital displays, that teachers can use with elementary school classes. Our thanks to the Santa Clara County Office of Education and Karen Bergesen for sharing these resources.

And now, as a bonus, and for a much longer term perspective, here’s a resource which covers a time scale of tens and hundreds of millions of years!

Digging for Dinosaurs:



Stegosaurus, Field Museum (credit: Killdevil)

This is an algebra resource at the high school level that is built around a theme of dinosaurs. Dig deeper to find more ancient dinosaur fossils! Thanks also to the Santa Clara County Office of Education for pointing out this resource as well.

Khan Academy in the New World of Common Core Standards

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

An intern at Khan Academy recently asked for suggestions on a Reddit education site. There was some interesting discussion in response around the efficacy of Khan Academy videos and how these video resources relate to Common Core standards.

One commenter notes that it is harder to grade and check answers with this approach. Another points out that math and science topics are more objective, so potentially more amenable to the use of short video lessons than say, history. “Dr. Momentum” responds that even math and science still involve opinions.

ImageStudents need to be able to understand a logical argument, construct a logical argument and refute an incorrect argument. Students need to develop their own reasoning ability. And coherence and depth in teaching a subject, not just subject knowledge, are required from their teachers.

One commenter points out that the Common Core standards for math include Mathematical Practices as well as Mathematical Content. Indeed, Khan Academy is good for the procedural side of things, and in conveying content. Practice transmission, on the other hand, just doesn’t happen on its own, and it’s not enough to explain procedures. It’s about developing expertise in students – “reasoning ability, conceptual understanding and procedural fluency,” among other attributes.


Here are the 8 practices for Math, which you can find at http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice
MP1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
MP2: Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
MP4: Model with mathematics.
MP5: Use appropriate tools strategically.
MP6: Attend to precision.
MP7: Look for and make use of structure.
MP8: Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Attention to how a student is thinking and attempting to reason is not something a video can do. Don’t get us wrong, we love the Khan videos, and there are many of them accessible from Curriki.

It’s about the connectedness. One can pick up a procedure or three, but until one has the ability to generalize then the subject matter is not really being understood sufficiently. While some students have an innate ability to do this, most will benefit from coaching and development and assistance in seeing the larger context.

The Curriki Algebra 1 course found here is designed to align with Common Core State Standards.

Big Data Analytics for K-12 Personalized Learning

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

There is a rush, perhaps a gold rush, underway in efforts to leverage Big Data analytics to improve K-12 educational results.

A story from Reuters http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-education-database-idUSBRE92204W20130303
reports that a new $100 million data warehouse has been built in the U.S. to monitor academic achievements of public school students, from kindergarten through grade 12. The article states that “The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states.”


Already 9 states in the U.S. are participating to some degree, and two of these, New York and Louisiana, are planning to provide all or most of their student records into the data warehouse. The database includes students names and addresses, and other personal information.

A non-profit named inBloom, Inc. (previously called the Shared Learning Collective) has been established to operate the database, which already contains millions of student files. It is a cloud-based data warehouse for student data such as grades, test results, assessments, standards met, behavior and attendance. It is not a repository for digital content, but will contain links to content, leveraging the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative methodology. The stated goal for the data warehouse is to support more personalized learning.


Here you can watch a video that introduces inBloom’s vision for customized teaching and learning:

A very large amount of data is gathered by school districts and states, but resides in many separate databases and is not cross-correlated or well-analyzed. This project aims to change that. See this Mindshift article:
Pulling data together in this way is intended not only to make learning more customized, but also to make it easier to track results as students move from district to district or even state to state. In addition, it will allow data analysis on student achievement to be linked to various learning resources, potentially including the 46,000+ resources on Curriki.

Educational software suppliers are excited by the opportunity to mine the database and better determine what educational products to develop, including educational games and other digital learning products, lesson plans, and reports.

The goals of the project are laudable, but not surprisingly, given the sensitive nature of the data, privacy and security concerns are being raised. inBloom states on their web site: “We recognize the sensitivity of storing student data and place the utmost importance on the privacy and security of that data.” Parents in some states are already raising concerns about potential data leakage. While the data warehouse contains essentially the same data already held in school district databases, it now becomes available to a wider audience, including educators in other states than the original source for the data. And educational content vendors are requesting access to test data, for example. Presumably this will be made anonymous when supplied. Ownership of the data is retained by the states and districts that supply it. But some organizations, including the PTA and ACLU, are already asking “What are the remedies if and when data leaks?”.

We’d be interested to hear what you think about this project. What benefits and risks to you see in amassing a well-integrated and analyzable database of K-12 student achievement? How would you want to see this data being used to improve learning outcomes? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Please provide comments.

Common Core and Open Educational Resources Working Together

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, Curriki CEO

Open Educational Resources are important enablers in support of Common Core standards. An article in Education Week entitled “Common Core Drives Interest in Open Education Resources” can be found here: http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/10/17/01open.h06.html


The article notes that Common Core standards are driving increased interest in open digital resources. For example, the state of Utah in the U.S. is creating textbooks made entirely from OER materials, and in the state of South Dakota educators have built a repository of OER content in support of the Common Core. The pilot projects for open textbooks in Utah were highly successful, so the open textbook project was expanded to be statewide during this current school year.

I was interviewed by Katie Ash, who wrote in the article:

“Such projects are exactly what the common core can now make possible”, says Kim Jones, the chairman and chief executive officer of Curriki, a nonprofit K-12 repository for open education resources based in Cupertino, Calif.
“We’re seeing a lot of teachers starting to contribute OER materials that are aligned to common-core standards,” says Jones. “We’re very excited about that and think it’s going to make a huge difference in allowing people across the U.S. to leverage what teachers are doing in other places.”

The article also noted Curriki’s work with the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, which is working to categorize and tag OERs to make them more accessible and easier to search. Also mentioned was Curriki’s launch during 2012 of a free Algebra 1 course aligned to Common Core standards.

“It’s an exciting time for education, between OER really crossing the chasm and common-core standards coming out, and just the work that’s going on around technology,” says Jones, from Curriki. “It’s all coming together at a great time, and it’s really going to have a positive impact on education going forward.”

For more information on how OER supports Common Core standards implementation, we encourage you to read the full article at: http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/10/17/01open.h06.html