New Paper Examines the Link between Common Core Standards, Curriculum and Assessments

New study exmines how common core stanrdards translate into curriculum for the classoom.


Jay  McTighe, an educational writer/consultant, and Grant Wiggins, an educational writer/consultant and president of Authentic Education are the authors of a “white paper” From Common Core Standards to Curriculum: Five Big Ideas. The paper summarizes their recommendations for developing curriculum and assessments that reflect the intent and emphases of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The authors have worked with numerous schools and districts, as well as several state education departments, to translate into viable curriculum.

 “We think that a careful consideration of our five big ideas will help educators avoid the predictable pitfalls of implementing the Common Core Standards,” McTighe said. Paraphrasing, here are some highlights from the document:

 Big Idea 1— The Common Core Standards have new emphases and require a careful reading

Merely trying to retrofit the Standards to typical teaching and testing practices will undermine the effort. A focus on Standards is not new. However, it a misconception to assume that these Standards merely require minor tweaks to our curriculum and instructional practices.

 Big Idea 2 Standards are not curricula.

A Standard is an outcome, not a claim about how to achieve an outcome (i.e., a curriculum). While curriculum and instruction must address established Standards, we always want to keep the long-term educational ends in mind – the development of important capabilities in the learner as a result of engaging and effective work.


Big Idea 3 Standards need to be “unpacked.”

The first step in translating the Common Core Standards into engaging an outcome-focused curriculum involves a careful reading of the documents in order to insure clarity about the end results and an understanding of how the pieces fit together. They recommend that educators “unpack” them into four broad categories (1) Long term Transfer Goals, (2) Overarching Understandings, (3) Overarching Essential Questions, and (4) A set of recurring Cornerstone Tasks.


Big Idea 4 —A coherent curriculum is mapped backwards from desired performances

The key to avoiding an overly discrete and fragmented curriculum is to design backward from complex performances that require content. A return to the linguistic roots of reveals the wisdom in this outcome-focused view.

The Latin meaning of “curriculum” is a “course to be run”…our conception is that curriculum should be framed and developed in terms of worthy outputs; i.e., desired performances by the learner, not simply as a listing of content inputs.


Big Idea 5 – The Standards come to life through the assessments.

A prevalent misconception about standards in general is that [Standards] simply specify learning goals to be achieved. A more complete and accurate conception recognizes that standards also refer to the desired qualities of student work and the degree of rigor that must be assessed and achieved.

The standards are at their core a set of criteria for building and testing local assessment. They tell where we must look and what we must look for to determine if student work is up to standards. Such information is crucial to guide local assessments and insure that these are validly anchored against national standards.

Read the white paper on the “Five Big Ideas.”

Roz Fehr, NAfME managing editor for news, November 30, 2012. © National Association for Music Education (