Hawaii Common Core Standards

Hawaii Common Core Standards define the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in college and careers when they graduate. They align with college and workforce expectations, are clear and consistent, include rigorous content and application of knowledge through higher-order skills, are evidence-based, and are informed by standards in top-performing countries.



What it is, what it is not​

Hawaii Common Core Standards are a call to take another leap forward in our efforts toward ensuring that all of our students graduate from high school college-, career- and community-ready. The aim was to create a set of common learning expectations for Mathematics and for English Language Arts/Literacy in subjects including literature, history, social studies, science and technical subjects.

It's important to note that the Common Core is not curriculum or teaching methods, but standards. Standards define what students should understand and be able to do at each grade level. Schools and teachers choose curriculum, and choose how standards are taught in the classroom. 

Put another way, the standards are the platform from which teachers and schools can innovate. See how the Kailua-Kalaheo Complex Area is approaching the standards in the video, above. 

Schools began phased implementation of Common Core in 2011-12 with grades K-2 and 11-12, and full implementation in 2013-14. Teachers are working collaboratively with principals and leadership to design educational tools and practices that best deliver on these standards. Common Core will help the state reach its goals of greater college attendance, readiness and graduation for our keiki. Learn more on the Hawaii P-20 page.

Family is key to student success

Mom, dad, tutu, uncle — you're a key factor in student success! New standards and instructional shifts are creating more dynamic learning environments that can look quite different from when you went to school. We encourage family members to reach out to their child's teachers and principal for guidance on how to assist their child with learning at home — please review our family resources for more information.


Instructional shifts

The standards triggered three major changes in instruction:​

  1. Teachers will focus on the most important topics for each grade level allowing your child to develop a deeper understanding of mathematical ideas and skills.
  2. Teachers will provide more opportunities for students to make connections between the mathematics they learn from grade to grade.
  3. Students will still be expected to know their “math facts” and compute using efficient strategies. Along with those expectations, learning experiences will help students to understand why those strategies and skills work and how to apply them to solve problems that arise everyday life experiences and other real-world situations.
  1. There is an increased emphasis on building a strong vocabulary so that your child can read and understand challenging material.
  2. Teachers will provide more challenging reading and ask more questions that will require your child to refer back to a passage he or she has read.
  3. In addition to stories and literature, there will be more reading that provides facts and background knowledge in science and social studies.

Instructional materials

Hawaii's educators have selected a consistent set of statewide instructional materials aligned to the new Hawaii Common Core standards to support teachers and students. The Curriculum Materials Review Summary Report​ provides an overview of Hawaii's vetting and selection process.

Schools were provided $26 million in additional funding to support the purchase of ELA materials by the 2016-17 school year and math by 2017-18.

The Department believes in a balanced approach of "standardization" (high expectations and high-quality foundational materials for classroom use) and "customization" (through teachers’ individual decisions and instructional practices). Instructional materials are not a script. While teachers use a consistent set of materials as a primary resource, they are still expected to be innovative and creative to address their students’ learning needs.

Schools, however, still have the ability to select alternative instructional materials, provided they align with the Hawaii Common Core. Schools opting to use materials other than those selected by the Department need to file an exception request outlining an implementation plan. The request will be reviewed by a technical committee and approved by the Complex Area Superintendent. See the FAQ​​ for more information.

The Assessment: Smarter Balanced

Our schools are transitioning from the Hawaii State Assessment to a new statewide test aligned to the Common Core. The Smarter Balanced exam had a test-run in the 2013-14 school year, and was implemented in spring 2015.​

Hope S​treet Group fellowship reports

In 2014, the Department and the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) announced a fellowship program​ led and run by the Hope Street Group, a national nonprofit. Through the partnership, a cohort of exceptional teacher leaders serve as Hawaii State Teacher Fellows, trained in peer and community engagement, data collection and media strategies to communicate learning standards and instructional shifts with the public. ​

The 2014-15 Hawaii State Teacher Fellows gathered input on the professional development supports that teachers are reporting that they need relating to Common Core, and policies and processes to support future reviews of instructional materials. Here are the reports:


Contact Information

Esther Tokihiro

Phone: 808-305-9702

Email: Esther.Tokihiro@k12.hi.us


Ho‘oha‘aheo newsletter cover

The Department's primary publication featuring successes across our public schools.

View all Ho‘oha‘aheo Newsletters