Common Core FAQs

Answers to common questions about Hawaii's Common Core standards.

​​​What are educational standards?

Education standards are statements of what students are expected to know and be able to do at specific grade levels. They provide clear guideposts for educators as they support students on the path to college — and career — readiness.

Why do we need educational standards?

  • Standards serve as beginning points for teachers when they make decisions about what students need to learn.
  • Standards focus on essential concepts, knowledge, skills and behavior s necessary for students to be college — and career — ready.
  • In a standards-based system, educational standards serve as the foundation to which curriculum, instruction and assessment are aligned.

What is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative?

  • A state-led effort to establish a single set of clear educational standards that states voluntarily adopt for kindergarten through 12th grade in mathematics and English language arts.
  • Hawaii adopted the CCSS on June 18, 2010.
  • As of January 2013, 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity had adopted CCSS (Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Minnesota and Nebraska have not).

Who developed the Common Core State Standards?

  • The Common Core State Standards were developed through a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
  • The standards establish clear and consistent goals for learning that will prepare our children for college and the workforce. The NGA Center and CCSSO received feedback on drafts of the standards from national organizations representing diverse stakeholders, including teachers, postsecondary educators (including community colleges), civil rights groups, English language learners and students with disabilities.
  • An advisory group provided guidance on the initiative. Members of this group include experts from Achieve, Inc., ACT, the College Board, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

How were Common Core State Standards determined?

  • The standards are based on preexisting standards from high-performing states and countries and grounded in research and best practices.
  • Standards writing began with the development of the college- and career-ready anchor standards, to ensure that each grade’s standards build toward achieving the goal of college and career readiness.
  • Staff from state agencies, governors’ offices and higher education institutions, as well as teachers, school leaders and researchers, were intimately involved in the standards-drafting process.
  • Common Core State Standards are intended to be a living work that will continue to be refined as new and better evidence emerges. NGA and CCSSO are working to establish a governance body that would be responsible for overseeing future revisions of the Common Core.

What schools, grades and subjects will be covered by the Common Core State Standards?

The Common Core State Standards replace the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards (HCPS) III in English language arts and mathematics for all public schools, including charter schools. In addition, the English language arts standards include literacy standards that are designed to be embedded in science and social studies standards.

What is the timeline for implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Hawaii?





The Department reviews curricular materials and identifies the English language arts (ELA) and math core curriculum for all Department-operated public schools.

Hawaii State Assessment (HSA) for English language arts and math.


All grades move to Common Core. Professional development for all schools.

Bridge HSA in English language arts and math covers the Common Core and HCPSIII. Schools administer end of course exams in Algebra I, Algebra II, Biology, Expository Writing, and U.S. History.


Professional development for all schools.

Smarter Balanced Assessment replaces the HSA for English language arts and math. Schools administer end of course exams in Algebra I, Algebra II, Biology, Expository Writing, and U.S. History.


Professional development for all schools.

Smarter Balanced Assessment. Schools administer end of course exams in Algebra I, Algebra II, Biology, Expository Writing, and U.S. History.

How have teachers been prepared for implementation of the Common Core State Standards?

  • In School Year 2012-13, the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support (OCISS) created a series of online professional development protocols for principals to administer with all of their teachers. The protocols are supplemented with workshops and symposia on the Common Core. For example, in December 2012 the writers of the Common Core held a weeklong summit for complex area teams on the standards, implications for instruction and strategies for leveraging curricular materials. This is the fifth phase in a five-phase professional development plan, which began in 2010.
  • The Department also maintains a Common Core website that is a one-stop shop for Common Core resources.
  • In addition, teachers and school staff have access to online collaboration sites where teachers can work with each other and with OCISS staff.

How have Principals been prepared for implementation of the Common Core State Standards?

Similar to teachers, principals have received training on the Common Core from the state and complex area level. During the summer of 2012, state staff provided training on the Common Core protocols for all principals. This is the fifth phase in a five-phase professional development plan, which began in 2010.

What are the advantages of using digital materials over traditional textbooks?

  • Today’s students live in a fast-paced, technological world, and use technology to access information and engage in learning. Transitioning to partially digital materials gets information to students in a manner that is compatible with how students interact with the world.
  • Traditional hardcopy textbooks and textbook contracts mean that states are locked in to the same book for extended periods of time. However, digital materials can be updated more frequently at a fraction of the cost of purchasing new textbooks.

What are the disadvantages of using digital materials over traditional textbooks and how will they be mitigated?

The largest barrier to using digital materials is ensuring equitable access for all students. To that end, the Department is pursuing a 1:1 device strategy that will provide a device to each student. The devices will be vehicles for students to access curricular materials, for schools to streamline the administration of assessments, and for teachers to use to augment their instruction.

How much of the curriculum will be digital versus non-digital?

A core curriculum that includes interactive digital components does not mean the end of paper and pencil. All schools will retain the right to select and purchase supplemental materials to use in conjunction with the core curriculum.

How will students be protected?

Student privacy is of the utmost concern to the Department. Depending on the device selected, the Department has a range of software and hardware security options to protect students from malicious content.

Will students be able to take home the devices?

There are multiple strategies for addressing this question. The Department is working with complex area superintendents and school leaders to determine the best answer for Hawaii.

What assumptions are being used to develop a cost estimate of the digital program?

The Department reviewed prior purchases, school expenditures, and other state costs to make estimates regarding the per pupil annual costs of the materials and devices.

Who decides which devices and curriculum materials that are ultimately selected?

The Department worked with the BERC Group (an evaluation, research and consulting firm) to do an initial review of the materials, using the Publishers Criteria created by the standards writers. The second and final phase of the materials review includes teachers, school leaders, and complex area and state staff as the reviewers.

Will both devices and materials be standardized?

All Department-operated schools will adopt the core curriculum. However, the curricular package will be selected based on quality and alignment to the standards. This may result in materials from different publishers for ELA and math or between school levels.

What about the current inventory of technology?

The Department will work with the device vendor, when selected, and with the field to develop a strategy for addressing existing technology that meets the specifications for future assessments.

What are anticipated costs to roll out the new materials and devices for all schools?

Once Race to the Top funds expire, the Department will need funds in place to support implementation of ongoing professional development.

What is the long-term plan after the materials and devices are acquired for maintenance, upgrades and replacement of lost or damaged items?

This is an outstanding decision that will be negotiated with the vendors and informed by best practices from other states and experiences from the field in Hawaii.

Why can’t schools pay for the new materials and devices from their Weighted Student Formula (WSF) funds?

  • With the transition to the Common Core State Standards, there are large one-time costs that schools cannot accommodate within the existing WSF budget, without schools having to institute staff reductions or phase in the expense over several years.
  • For the last three years schools have been instructed to avoid purchasing new curriculum materials (except for replacing lost or damaged materials) in anticipation of the CCSS.

What are the obstacles to full implementation by all schools and what is being done to mitigate those obstacles?

  • Electrical and network capacity: Using the K-12 schedule for facilities construction and upgrades, the Department has identified readiness by complex. To that end, electrical and network upgrades are prioritized based on a complex’s implementation phase.
  • Technical support: The DOE will work with the device vendor to provide comprehensive, 24-hour support options to complex areas, schools and parents.
  • Technical proficiency for all teachers. The DOE has developed a cross-office professional development plan aimed at supporting teachers, principals and complex area staff.

How will the DOE determine which schools and students will have access to the Common Core materials and devices?

  • The Department is rolling out the Common Core materials and devices by complex. This strategy will reinforce the K-12 schedule for facilities construction and ensure that students will continue to have access as they move from grade to grade.
  • All schools will receive the devices in one of three phases, depending upon their network and electrical capacity.

Contact Information

Petra Schatz

Phone: 808-305-9708



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