Academic Standards

​Colorado Academic Standards and the Common Core 

Colorado is one of 45 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Math and English Language Arts/Literacy beginning with the 2013-14 schools year. The Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) in math, reading, writing and communicating incorporate the entire Common Core State Standards while addressing components that are unique to Colorado, including personal finance, literacy, 21st Century skills, prepared graduate competency and preschool expectations. The CAS are aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. What is Common Core?

A. The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Q. Who developed the standards?

A. The CCSS were not developed by the federal government. Parents, teachers, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders, through their membership in the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) led the effort to develop a common core of state standards. Teachers have been a critical voice in the development of the standards. The National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), among other organizations, have been instrumental in bringing together teachers to provide specific, constructive feedback on the standards.

Q. How are the Common Core standards related to the Colorado Academic Standards?

A. The Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) are the expectations of what Colorado students need to know and understand, and be able to do at the end of each grade level. All of the Common Core State Standards are embedded in the Colorado Academic Standards as the foundation for the Colorado Academic Standards in the subject areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics. The Common Core State Standards represent at least 85 percent of the Colorado Academic Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, while Colorado teachers built the remaining 15%.

Thus, all schools and districts in Colorado align with the Colorado Academic Standards, which has the Common Core embedded in them in specific subject areas. You can click here to read a flyer with more historical information about how the two were developed.

Q. How have the standards changed?

A. The Colorado Academic Standards were written for mastery. Requirements for deeper student understanding are the foundation of the standards. They emphasize what students need to be postsecondary and workforce ready.


What the standards do NOT define:

  • How teachers should teach
  • All that can or should be taught
  • The nature of advanced work beyond grade-level standards
  • The interventions needed for students well below grade level
  • The full range of support for English language learners and students with special needs
  • Everything needed to be college and career ready

Q. How will we know if students are meeting the new Colorado Academic Standards?

A. The State of Colorado has developed a new program of testing called the Colorado Measures for Academic Success (CMAS). New state science and social studies tests measuring the CAS will be administered online in Colorado for the first time in the spring of 2014. These assessments are being developed collaboratively by the Colorado Department of Education, the assessment contractor, Pearson, and Colorado educators. 2013-2014 will be the last year that TCAP will be administered to test reading, writing and mathematics. New assessments for English language arts and mathematics will begin in 2014-15. Colorado is working with the multi-state assessment consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Reading for College and Careers (PARCC), to develop computer-based tests for English Language Arts in grades 3-11 and Mathematics tests in grades 3-8 as well as high school math tests.

Because the new CAS and the new PARCC test will be different from the old Colorado Model Content Standards and currently used TCAP tests, we won’t be able to directly compare the new scores with the old, and it may appear at first that scores have dropped. This is a brand-new system, however, with a new way of scoring. The first year results will establish a new baseline from which to compare subsequent years going forward to show how students are doing on the new assessments.

Q. What does this mean for D51 students?

A. Since the adoption of the Colorado Academic Standards, the District 51 Office of Instructional Support department redesigned the curriculum to ensure we are directly aligned with the state standards. Content specialists in Literacy, Math, Science and Social Studies are working with teachers to assist in the implementation of the Common Core Standards to support student learning. Because the standards are more rigorous, students can expect to be reading much more complex text. Students in all grade levels will be reading both informational text and literature. The new standards call for a strong emphasis on informational text at all grade levels so Literacy is embedded throughout all content areas. An increased emphasis on reading, writing, and listening will be experienced in all classes. In math students from all grades will learn important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up: adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding (comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations and relations), procedural fluency (skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately), and productive disposition (habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy).

Q. Will D51 release student data as part of its work on Common Core?

A. No. District 51 will not release student data to a third party due to its work on curriculum, assessment and aligning with the Colorado Academic Standards. District 51 has and will continue to comply with all the legal requirements in FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, that governs the release of student information.

A quote from The College Board

"As an association with a membership that includes more than 5,700 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations, the College Board has long been an advocate for higher standards and more rigorous academic experiences in all of our nation’s schools. We believe that all young people deserve a high-quality education that will prepare them to succeed in college and beyond. For too long, the quality of education has been inconsistent across this country, and that is simply unacceptable. These common standards can ensure that every student receives a high-quality education, regardless of his or her place of residence. The Common Core State Standards will provide an accessible roadmap that has clear and realistic goals and expectations for schools, teachers, parents and students."


Sample Question - Grade 10 TCAP English Language Arts (old)

Sample Question - Grade 10 PARCC English Language Arts (new)



Parents' Guide to Student Success - from National PTA

Supporting College and Career Readiness - an introduction guide to the Colorado Academic Standards from the Colorado Department of Education

Key Points for Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics

CDE Standards Fact Sheet - a Fact Sheet about Colorado Academic Standards
Family and Community Guides - Family and Community Guides to the Colorado Academic Standards


Additional Information:

Colorado Department of Education - Department of Standards and Instruction

Colorado Department of Education P-12 Academic Standards 

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers – Colorado