Explaining Common Core
to Californians

A Communications Toolkit

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Sponsored by the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation in support of the California CCSS Campaign.


Welcome to Explaining Common Core to Californians – a collection of framing research, recommendations, and sample communications designed to help leading voices in California’s education sector increase public understanding of the kinds of instruction, assessment, and systemic supports needed to fulfill the potential of Common Core State Standards.

This toolkit, sponsored by the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, is intended to support communicators in framing the issues that surround Common Core implementation. It includes sample communications, as well as annotations that unpack the framing strategy being illustrated, so that the recommendations can be extended to new communications. When communicating with the public or policymakers, users are encouraged to borrow toolkit language verbatim if desired, or adapt it to their needs—no citation or special permissions are needed in this instance. For other uses of toolkit materials – such as incorporating these materials into other trainings or communications resources - please refer to FrameWorks Institute’s terms of use for guidance on seeking permissions.

For 15 years, FrameWorks Institute research has demonstrated that effective communications can help activate the public’s engagement with complex social issues – such as the education reforms needed to meet the demands of a complex and changing world. This toolkit is based on the findings of the Core Story of Education initiative, a multi-method research project which queried the thinking of over 28,000 Americans and included a substantial sample of Californians. For more on the extensive evidence base that informs the recommendations in this toolkit, visit our website.

Writing credits: Julie Sweetland, Jenna Fournel, and Jenn Nichols.
Design credits: Rob Shore, Holly Valero, Dave Gantz, and Chris Vo.

Key Framing Guides

Useful guides to keep communicators on frame.

Message Cards

Download printable cards summarizing tested frame elements.

Talking Points

Review the key messages that are the campaign’s major themes.


Stay on message in the face of tough questions.

The Swamp!

Visual summary of relevant findings from cultural models research.

Sample Communications

These materials apply the tested frame elements to key communications moments in the academic calendar. They can be adapted to a local contexts (for example, adding local references or site-specific information) or restructured for a variety of media (for example, repurposing an editorial as a blog post or public remarks.)

Social Media

Examples of how to integrate tested message elements into social media posts.

Tweet: Common Core goals work step-by-step toward what we need kids to know 2 be ready for college, work + life. Learn more: http://samplelink #CCS
What's Cooking with Common Core California: Video

This engaging animation explains the big ideas behind CCSS: this major reform is aimed at updating teaching and learning for the 21st century.

Additional Resources

These Message Memos synthesize multiple studies and provide strategic guidance on how to reframe three aspects of education reform that relate to Common Core implementation: overall thinking about education; skills and learning; and the role of teachers and teachers unions. Links to the original studies are provided in each.

Framing Education Reform: A FrameWorks MessageMemo

(2010). Unpacks the thinking behind recommendations for Remodeling and Future Preparation.

Talking About Skills and Learning: A FrameWorks MessageMemo for the Core Story of Education Project

(2012). See here for more on communications practices to avoid when talking about deeper learning and 21st century skills – and analysis of why the frame element of Progress is important when discussing changes to instruction.

Using Core Story to Frame CCSS Implementation: Promoting Productive and Hopeful Conversations About Education Reform

This short article is intended to be used by campaign participants to inform colleagues and other potential supporters about the logic behind the strategic framing approach. It’s the short version of the strategy, intended to be accessible to people new to the idea of framing, and persuasive to those who are starting from a different set of assumptions about how communications work.

A Hands-on Approach to Talking About Learning and Digital Media: A FrameWorks MessageMemo

(2012). See here for more on the research behind the explanatory metaphor Cooking with Information.

Get in Where You Fit in: The Role of Teachers' Unions in Public Conversations About Education Reform

(interactive version of the MessageMemo is available.) Explains the research behind the need to beware of the Caring Teacher Trap, and the frame elements of Pragmatism and Scaffolding.