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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Is there Common Core in Texas? Yes, but not in the way you might think.

First, I think it is important to explain state standards and how they are used. Every state in the United States has established essential standards to be met in their public schools. Texas has determined that our schools will meet the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS. The Texas State Board of Education, an elected entity that provides governance over our public schools, adopts these standards. These standards are measured by assessments. In Texas they are measured by the STAAR/EOC assessments administered to our students yearly. This is often referred to as “accountability.” Accountability ensures that the state standards are implemented in our local schools. Most educators agree that it is important to have accountability. However, there is much discussion about the current system. Needless to say, that would be another article for another time.

Second, it is important to understand the relationship between standards and curriculum. Curriculum is the content that will be taught in the classroom. The standards are the framework that the curriculum is built on. For example, the standard would be: The student is expected to compare and order non-negative rational numbers. The curriculum might be a two-week unit on numerical reasoning that addresses all of the key concepts, the product that would show the evidence of learning, and specific expectations of what comparing and ordering non-negative numbers would include.

Finally, it is important to understand the relationship between curriculum and instruction. The curriculum is WHAT is taught. Instruction is HOW the curriculum is taught. Instruction includes using the curriculum to determine your content goals and collecting resources, like textbooks, to deliver the content in an organized and meaningful way to help your students master the content. Understanding the distinction between the two will go a long way in understanding the Common Core State Standards.

Now that you understand state standards, let’s explore the Common Core Standards and their relationship to the Texas standards (TEKS). It came to pass that several states were falling way behind in academic achievement. Several of these states decided to adopt common standards that were more rigorous than their current standards. However, Texas already had rigorous standards and decided to keep our standards (TEKS). It may or may not have been good for these states to adopt common standards and it really doesn’t matter in this discussion.

The general myth is that there is Common Core in Texas. On its face, this is not true. Texas has not adopted the Common Core State Standards in any way. We have kept our own state standards. However, there are several areas where the TEKS and the Common Core Standards overlap. Let me present to you a common sense approach to understanding how this could happen.

When your child or grandchild goes to 1st Grade in Texas, they generally have the same background knowledge as 1st Grade students in other states that have the same socio-economic background. So, it would probably not surprise you that the TEKS and Common Core are very similar in their standards. Here is an example:

The Common Core Standard: CC 1.OA.3 - Apply properties of operations as strategies to add and subtract. Example: Examples: If 8 + 3 = 11 is known, then 3 + 8 = 11 is also known. (Commutative property of addition.) To add 2 + 6 + 4, the second two numbers can be added to make a ten, so 2 + 6 + 4 = 2 + 10 = 12. (Associative property of addition.). [Students need not use formal terms for these properties.]

The TEKS: TX 5.E - The student is expected to: identify patterns in related addition and subtraction sentences (fact families for sums to 18) such as 2 + 3 = 5, 3 + 2 = 5, 5 - 2 = 3, and 5 - 3 = 2.

Though these standards are not exactly alike, they could reasonably be accomplished with similar curriculum and resources, like textbooks. The instruction would be a little different in a Common Core classroom vs. a Texas classroom, because the Texas classroom would be accountable for the Texas standards. Even more, you would not be surprised to see a practice sheet that would address both of these standards.

Though the above practice sheet would be considered aligned with the Common Core, it would also be considered aligned with the TEKS. It addresses both of the standards.

Here is the problem. Fear mongers have taken resources used to address the TEKS that are also aligned with the Common Core and shouted from the mountaintops that teachers are using Common Core in Texas. The TRUTH is: the Common Core is in Texas only as much as it is in our TEKS. Which, by the way, is a lot. In fact, 68% of the math Common Core and math TEKS align at some point. But, please don’t take my word for it. Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Here is a link to the Renaissance Learning spreadsheet that shows the alignment between the Common Core Standards and the TEKS for Math and Reading:

I hope this helps explain Common Core in Texas and I hope you will help put this myth to rest. Unfortunately, those who hope to destroy public education in Texas will often go into denial when they hear this truth. In fact, I have even heard some say that Common Core is not just a set of standards, it is a communist plot that seeks to indoctrinate our students into some elaborate liberal blah, blah, blah. My response is: Nope, Common Core Standards are just that, standards. Any conspiracies must now be directed toward curriculum and instruction, but not standards. If this article helped you to better understand the Common Core in Texas, please share with others that may benefit from knowing a little more.


  1. Appreciate your post. Question: Are the Common Core standards and the TEKS assessed similarly?

  2. Karen,

    It depends. There are several ways to assess learning. If the TEKS are highly correlated to the CCSS, then it would be reasonable to see an assessment that would measure the same learning. Ultimately, the answer would be no. The reason I say that is the State of Texas holds school districts accountable via the state assessment (STAAR/EOC). Students would not be successful on an assessment if the content they are being taught is not correlated with the assessment they take. I think it is important to point out that there are some really bad assessments for both the CCSS and the TEKS. It is generally up to the district to choose a common assessment for their students (generally given each six or nine weeks or at the end of a unit). All other assessments are generally chosen by the classroom teacher, grade level team, or core area team. Standards are independent of assessment. They have to be by definition. Otherwise, there would be no way to hold educators accountable for the standards.

  3. Very well-written article. Thank you for a factual source I can refer people to gain solid information.


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