Common Core Checklist: What to Know Before You Buy
Just about every new product to hit the edtech space is touting that it is “aligned with Common Core standards” as a prime feature. But how
can schools be sure these companies aren’t just finessing existing features to fit broad CCCS definitions? Tech & Learning asked the following
experts for their recommendations on questions educators should ask to confirm that a product actually is meeting Common Core standards:
Douglas Clements, a Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning and Professor at the University of Denver, Julie Sarama, a Kennedy
Endowed Chair in Innovative Learning Technologies and Professor at the University of Denver, and Timothy Shanahan, a Professor of Urban
Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is Director of the UIC Center for Literacy. Here are their replies.
By Julie Sarama and
Dougla s H. Clements
■ Does the program provide appropriately rigorous and coherent
mathematics instruction? Does it provide teachers and students
the opportunity to understand and apply the major ideas and
procedures for each grade (i.e., does it attend explicitly to the
concepts for each grade, connecting mathematics concepts,
procedures, and facts)?
■ Do the materials, tools, and digital offerings provide teachers
and students a variety of ways to pursue conceptual
understanding, procedural skill, and fluency?
■ Does the program provide opportunities for meaningful
application of the Standards for Mathematical Practice? Are the
content and practice standards consistently woven together in
a coherent curriculum in every grade level?
■ Is the curriculum built on learning progressions (i.e., learning
trajectories) from grade to grade that help students relate
to prior knowledge
and build a solid
foundation for future
■ Does the program
to engage in
including academic discussions that explicitly use the
specialized language of mathematics? Are there instances that
prompt students to construct viable arguments and engage in
real-world problem solving?
■ In general, does the program go beyond programs that
were available before the advent of the CCSS, rather than
simply stating that it is “compatible with the CCSS,” without
By Timothy Shanahan
■ Does the program provide appropriately challenging texts that
align with the complexity requirements of CCSS, along with
sufficient instructional supports to allow students to read these
texts effectively and to increase the text levels that they are
able to read?
■ Does the program provide sufficient and appropriate supports
to enable students to be effective close readers who are
capable of interpreting text through analysis and interpretation
(e.g., not revealing too much information about texts prior to
student reading, encouraging re-reading, asking appropriate
sequences of “text-dependent” questions, and emphasizing the
identification and use of text evidence)?
■ Does the program provide a range of reading experiences,
including both close reading and re-reading of shorter,
challenging texts, more extended readings of longer texts, and
■ Does the program require that students write to sources and
research (e.g., summarizing, analyzing, and critiquing texts,
researching and synthesizing information from multiple sources,
revising texts, and using text evidence to support arguments)?
■ Does the program require students to engage in academic
discussions that effectively connect reading, writing, speaking,