The United States has state and local control of education which means we’ve never had national learning standards. Many non-Americans are shocked to hear this. But highly adept political maneuvering has brought new learning standards in all four core subject areas recently (or soon-to-be) adopted by most states.

Do these standards revisions share common attributes? 

First, a very brief overview of each:

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts: The standards are divided into 5 strands.

1. Language

2. Reading Literature

3. Reading Informational Text

4. Writing

5. Speaking and Listening

Common Core Standards for Mathematics: The standards are organized into two areas:

1. Mathematical concepts

2. Mathematical practices

Next Generation Science StandardsThe standards are organized into three areas with suggestions for how to integrate all three:

1. Scientific practices

2. Cross-cutting concepts

3. Core ideas

C3 – College, Career and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies: These are organized into four dimensions.

1. Developing questions and planning inquiries

2. Applying disciplinary concepts and tools

3. Evaluating sources and using evidence

4. Communicating conclusions and taking informed action

Common attributes:

All of the disciplines seem to place emphasis on the conceptual organization of the discipline as well as specific disciplinary methods of behaving (practices or skills) within the discipline. This is certainly good news because we have decades of evidence to support it.

1. In 1960, after a convening of scientists, psychologists, engineers and mathematicians organized by the National Academies, Dr. Jerome Bruner published The Process of Education which advocated for conceptual understanding and students “behaving more like scientists” as they learn science.

2. In 1999, The National Research Council, part of the National Academies published How People Learn, the most thorough synthesis of research on learning yet to be published. Among its three conclusions is the important relationship between conceptual understanding and factual knowledge

3. More recently, Dr. Lynn Erickson has published several books on Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction, giving us practical steps for applying this research into our practice. Check out her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Lois Lanning which explains how certain disciplines such as Language and Arts are more process oriented rather than knowledge oriented.

Although these standards overhauls are not enough in our opinion, we are encouraged by their common attributes. Concept-Based and what we call Disciplinary Thinking are key elements of our framework for 21st Century school transformation. Let us know what you think!