Visualizing the Common Core State Standards

All parents want a great education for their children. Often, however, it’s hard for parents to be sure what that means. The Common Core State Standards are an invaluable aid in this regard because they help parents gauge where their children are on the path to school success.

But the Common Core State Standards remain an abstract notion for many parents. What do their children have to do to meet them? How are they different from previous standards? How will Common Core benefit their children? When parents are unclear about the answers to questions like these, they may not support the new standards and they are unlikely to fulfill their potential as key supporters of their children’s education.

Organizations like the PTACouncil of the Great City Schools and STAND for Children have done some great work developing Common Core information for parents (see PTA resources, CGCS resources, and STAND resources).

Building on this work, we at GreatSchools are developing an innovative and scalable approach to helping parents learn more about the Common Core standards and help their children meet them. We’re creating brief, 1-minute videos that introduce the standards and show parents what it looks like for children to be on track relative to the standards at each grade level. The videos work on smartphones, tablets and computers.

We know that people build their commitment to change by internalizing, emotionally as well as rationally, what the change will really bring. Our recent tests with over 500 parents suggest that these new videos (which we call Visualizers) are a powerful way to build parental support for the Common Core. They’re also a great resource for educators to introduce the standards to parents.

Common Core Visualizers at each grade level show the following:

  • Reading: Students skilled with sounds and words; reading fluently; demonstrating a mastery of vocabulary; portraying evidence of understanding; and exemplifying how they can use reading to learn and build on previous knowledge.
  • Writing and Speaking: Students finding and recording evidence from sources; sorting and selecting evidence to be used; organizing their thoughts; and moving from a first draft to a finished piece.
  • Math: Students demonstrating procedural fluency, conceptual understanding, and the ability to apply math to real-world scenarios.

We’re starting with a focus on reading in grades K-2. The prototype video below demonstrates a kindergarten student practicing “Sounds and Words”:

Thanks to Ted Hunsburger Elementary School in Reno, Nevada and Lloyd Diedrichsen Elementary School in Sparks, Nevada for their collaboration developing this and other prototype videos.

Over the next 18 months, we plan to develop 12-15 Visualizers for each grade level from K-12. Visualizers will be freely available to all, and partners may embed them into their own sites (with permission) or link to them on Partners and funders include Student Achievement Partners (technical advisors), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (lead funders), the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and teachers at schools in California, Nevada, Louisiana and Vermont (thus far) who are working with us to film the clips.

To learn more or to sign up to be informed when we release Visualizers, please email:

Leave a comment


  1. This will be great for parents!

  1. Nearly 4 in 10 GreatSchools users unfamiliar with Common Core State Standards | The GreatSchools Blog

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